I had no luck at all. Sash was there at the party. She was there in the front room, just taking off her coat with a bunch of other people, most of whom I also knew. I ducked back into the kitchen before she could spot me and went over to Ryan. Well, she's here, I said.
Ryan had been chatting up some girl. Who? Your ex? I nodded and he got a sad look on his face. Aw, you're not going to get all weird or depressed or something, are you?
I shrugged. We'll see. Can I grab a cigarette?
He took out his pack and gave me one. There was a door out the back of the kitchen that opened onto a patio, and I stepped outside. I didn't have my jacket, but the cold air was refreshing. There were a few other people out there smoking and I bummed a light.
I had that knot in my stomach. Sash had looked good. Really good. She was wearing a dress that I loved. It was a short, shimmery thing that showed a lot of leg and hugged her body. One time when we were at her place, she had kept the dress on while we had sex. It had been good. She liked to do it with the lights on, with Coldplay on the stereo. She loved Coldplay. They didn't do much for me, but it had been a beautiful moment.
I thought maybe I should try and get her alone somewhere and seduce her, try to swerve her into some kind of sex for old time's sake. I wanted her, that was for sure, but I didn't want to end up getting myself into a stupid, humiliating situation.
And then I had another thought: Jed was here. What if they hooked up? The absolute last thing in the world that I wanted to see was those two lip-locked again. Not only would it painful to watch, it would also f--k up any chance of him playing in the band with Ryan and me. There would be no way I could keep my cool in a situation like that.
I took a long drink from my beer and a drag off the cigarette. Damn. I could see no way out of this shit-storm. Just drink, I told myself. Drink and laugh. Don't let them get the best of you. What was the old boxing line? When you're weak, pretend to be strong. Yeah, right.
Holy shit, said a girl behind me. I turned around.
There were two girls there. I didn't know either of them, although they were vaguely familiar from the hallways on campus. One was slender, bleached blond with dark eye-line. The other girl had black hair. She was fine-featured and incredibly pale, like she was made of porcelain and crystal.
Hello, I said.
I saw you playing guitar in the hallway today, didn't I? said the blonde girl.
I smiled. Yeah. Well, I was playing bass, but yeah.
The blonde girl stepped toward me and her black-haired friend followed along. What were you doing? It was pretty strange to be playing that crowded hall.
I shrugged. I don't know. It was just kind of an experiment, I guess. I'm not really sure what we had in mind.
The girls each lit their cigarettes. It was odd, continued the blonde, because you really didn't sound very good. No offence, she said, briefly touching my bare arm, but you guys kinda sucked.
Yeah, I heard, I said. I looked up at the starlit sky. But we're just getting started.
I'm Jasmine, said the blonde, offering her hand.
Eric. The quiet black-haired girl shook my hand as well, introducing herself as Cara.
Over their shoulders and through the windows I could see Sash and a few of her friends coming into the kitchen. Sash said something to Ryan and he nodded back. I took a long drag on the cigarette and watched. They were talking to each other.
So, are you guys going to play again? Jasmine asked.
Sooner or later, I said. Sash walked out of the kitchen. I took a last drag and dropped the cigarette, squashing it into the snow. Sorry, I'm freezing, I told the girls. I see you inside, okay?
Sure, they both said at the same time. I went past them and back into the house. I finished my beer and got a new one out of the case Ryan and I had brought. A few were already missing. Fucking scavengers. I would have to keep a close eye on them.
Hey man, Ryan said. Your girl came in here. Man, she is hot. I mean, she looks really, really good.
I know that. Don't keep mentioning it. What did she say to you?
Not much. Just hello, you know?
Did she ask about me?
No, but I told here you were here.
What did she say?
She just said oh.
I nodded. Where is she now?
I dunno. I think she went upstairs.
I took several long gulps from my beer. What about our drummer? Where's he?
Upstairs, I think. I haven't been watching him.
Right. I took several more gulps, and steadied myself as I got a mild head-rush. This night was shaping up badly, but that felt strangely normal. I was getting used to having bad weekends. Dumped, watched ex make out with some guy, tried to pick a fight with the guy, and now, maybe watch them make out again. I was on a hell of a streak. I gulped back the last of the new bottle.
Jeez man, take it easy. You're not in a rush, are you? We've still got like, twenty beer in there. Pace yourself.
I put the empty into the case and took out a fresh one. There are sixteen left now, I said, popping off the top. People have been helping themselves.
What? I was standing right here!
Even so, I shrugged and pulled out a beer for him and a second one for me. Are you staying here? Keep a close eye on the beer, all right? I'm going to walk around.
Sure. Hey, look, he said, pulling me in close and speaking softly, don't start any crazy shit with Jed and Sash, okay? Let's just play it cool. Like you said at The Market, he doesn't even know about you two.
Don't worry about it. I'm just going to mingle.
I looked into the living room. A few of Sash's friends were in there. One of them made a friendly little wave, with a somehow sympathetic look on her face. I smiled and waved back, but headed up the stairs.
There were two bedrooms and a bathroom up there. I could hear Sash's voice coming from one of the rooms. I peaked around the corner. Jed was in there, sitting on the floor with some other girls I didn't know. Okay, so Sash and Jed were in the same room, but not alone and not even sitting next to each other. I didn't want her to know I was looking for her, so I went into the other bedroom.
There were four girls and one guy in there. Three of the girls were sitting on the bed, and the guy and the other girls were cross-legged next to each other on the floor. There was a battered old CD player. I asked what they were listening to.
The Decemberists, said the guy.
I nodded. I couldn't tell whether I liked it or not.
I leaned against the desk and listened to them talking. The girls on the bed were all kinda big, and they were talking about their body issues. The two on the floor were gossiping about some mutual friends. I drank down the one beer and opened the second. I didn't know what the hell I was doing in there. I had no place.
When the second beer was gone I went back downstairs without having talked to any of them. Ryan had taken a chair at the kitchen table. I got fresh beers for each of us and sat down. He and a few other guys were playing some kind of trivia game, answering questions off a deck of cards, and I joined in.
We drank beers like that for a while and I could feel myself getting progressively drunker. The questions kept getting harder to answer as I got more hammered. Each time I had to go upstairs to piss I would look into the bedroom. Jed and Sash were both still in there, but they weren't getting any closer together. I think at one point she saw me peaking in, but I just went into the can.
Around midnight, with ten beers in me I was getting sloppy, slurring my speech and started to make crude comments. Ryan and the guys at the table were getting a kick out of it, but I was starting to worry that I was getting way drunker than everyone else there. Then some girl threw up in the kitchen sink. I guess I wasn't too far ahead of the pack.
The two girls, Jasmine and Cara came through the kitchen a few times. I would watch them go, but I didn't bother too much about them. Nick showed up. He'd been in the basement with some guys looking at some shit on a computer. He said he would talk to us later, gave us his cell number, and left. I didn't concern myself with any of them. I just kept my eye on the stairs, waiting to see if either Sash or Jed would come down, or if they would come down together.
Jed came down first. He'd put away a bottle of wine and looked drunk and depressed. Ryan and I got up to see what was going on and the three of us ended up going outside to smoke in the cold air.
Shit, man, he said. Man, there's this girl upstairs, like, the hottest fucking girl I've ever met. She was all over me at Gooch's a couple weeks ago, but now she's like, totally brushing me off, man! She's like, aw, she won't even talk to me. I guess I was a rebound thing. She's up there totally trashing her ex-boyfriend. Man, she's so hot. I practically had a hard on just looking at her.
Really... I took a fierce drag. What was she saying about her ex?
I don't know. Some shit about how he slept in a closet and stuff like that. I guess he was a real loser.
I could feel my face getting red. Ryan looked at me. He shook his head. She sounds like a real bitch to me, he said. Frankly, I think you're better off without her.
Jed sighed. Yeah, but she's so hot.
Are there any beers left? I asked. My voice came out as a growl.
No, Ryan said. They're gone.
Then let's get out of here. I turned to Jed. You staying or going?
Are you guys done for the night? he asked. Or do you wanna go somewhere else?
I don't know. Either way, I'm done here, I said. I flicked away the finished cigarette and went back in. They followed me.
As I was passing by the staircase, I saw Sash with her luscious legs and body coming down the stairs. Oh, hey Eric, she said. How's it going?
F--K YOU, YOU BITCH! I said in a roaring voice, jamming a middle finger in front of her face. Except for the music the whole house went really silent. I grabbed my coat and walked out the front door.
Jed and Ryan followed after me. What the hell was that? Jed asked.
I think it's time you knew. Sash and I used to date, I said calmly. But I feel like that's over now. I feel like I have...closure.
In front of the house there were some people arguing. One of them was Jasmine, the blonde that I'd spoken to earlier. She was screaming and swearing and was so drunk that she kept falling down. We stepped around them and walked away, eventually deciding to stop at a bar somewhere to talk about music. It was time we got to know each other.
2009 Nolan Whyte