it is loud. i am 20 years old and this place is a hyenas clubhouse. every hello breathed on me smells like cheap rum or vodka or any high proof liquor that is poured from a plastic handle. i am underage and glassy eyed. i am embarrassed because i dont have a brown coffee mug with chipped plaster that is getting me drunk. i stand in the corner and i look for spencer. he had grabbed me after creative writing for drama and film and told me that there was, what he called, "a gathering of the campus intellectuals" getting together tuesday night for a reading. i looked at him for what he considered a second too long without offering a response and he cut off my silence with "just go, man."
the drive was painful. i felt like i had chewed and forced down gravel and followed that with a tall glass of warm milk, before i was a block away from my apartment they were slushing around in my stomach evolving into a semi-hard milky concrete block right above my large intestines. i knew that if my bowels allowed, i could have given life to the phrase "shitting bricks". i suppose nerves had something to do with it.
somehow i managed to find myself knocking on the front door of a ranch style house, the rails that led up the steps had been chained, without their consent im sure, to about ten bicycles. each of these crude, mechanical leeches had only one gear which i thought completely foolish. it gave my confidence a little boost thinking that i would be dealing with moronic pseudo-cyclists who probably sweat out half of the light beers they pounded before the party just getting from their places around town to this central meeting house (i later was informed that this idiotic idea of gutting your bike down to a single gear was "trendy").
which brings me to the circus. i am still sifting through sweaters and old summer dresses my grandma used to wear for spencer although my anxiety now has impaired my vision. this lanky, thin bearded guy mistakes my frenzy for an invitation and my fear of meeting new people hits orange (this is a reference to colors that correspond to danger levels at airports that, if you are a somewhat paranoid hypochondriac like me, you pay attention to). i try and maintain mannerisms that would tell most socially adept human beings that i am not interested in small talk about how you have been getting into new-wave-post-fusion-jazz-electronica-drone-rock. as he introduced himself as drake i found out he wasnt a member of the socially adept party. mumbled something about leaving college a few years ago to live in a "commune" which i responded with absolute shock (sarcasm). as he began to ask me what psychedelic drugs i had done, spencer walked into the living room.
"aaron! you made it!" the dropout hobbled away to find someone else to suck the life out of as spencer handed me a warm beer.
"yeah, sorry about that. these are leftovers from a few days ago and they have been sitting in my back pack."
"oh, yeah. no big deal. beer is beer." i tried to say it with all the genuine conviction i could as a gulped what tasted like rotten peach juice mixed with flat club soda.
"so are you havin' a good time? i saw you were talkin' to andres. his brain kinda works like half melted peanut butter but he is actually a decent painter."
i nodded my head a gave the "yeah totally" look as tried to finish my beer as quick as possible. i trusted spencer's critical opinion and felt myself getting a pinch of curiosity at what mush-head andres' paintings looked like.
"well i'm glad you are having fun, man. these are some pretty cool people."
"didn't you say this was gonna be some sort of reading?" i crushed my can in my hands and felt the superman strength that came from the feeling of aluminum giving way to my closing fist. this didnt feel like a meeting of great minds, but a meeting of pseudo-creative types using a pseudo-creative type of excuse to get hammered.
" yeah yeah, people just like to loosen up a bit before they read, more people participate, you know?"
"yeah i guess that makes sense." and it did, actually. after a few more warm beers and spencer snatching for me a floral printed mug filled to the brim with red wine, we were all summoned to the back patio for some "sharing". i took a seat near the back of the group so i could lean up against the side of the house (i cant sit long without proper lumbar support). the first person to slosh their way up to the front of the pack was the actual rent payer of the establishment, a short and slender girl with greasy brown hair that dropped down right around her shoulders and bangs that covered her eyebrows. she chuckled her way into an introduction of what was to take place for the rest of the night.
"hello everyone, i am tanya and i live here." most of the group clapped and raised beer cans to salute this petite ring-leader of young adult madness. "please come to the front if you want to read. and please please please everyone, you must read." just as she had arrived, she gigged her way back into the mass and waited.
why i left my seat against the house most likely had to do with the combination of a mug-sized amount of wine and four warm beers circulating through my blood stream. somehow i found myself standing in front of twenty-five strangers and i was emptying the last line of my most recent poem out of my mouth. and then there was clapping.