Party of a Lifetime
She’s talking about Harry Potter.
“I’m sorry?” I say. “Harry who?”
She laughs. “Harry Potter? The famous wizard?”
I nod. “Oh, from the children’s books, of course.”
The thirty-something woman with the slightly smeared lipstick ignores my veiled insult and keeps talking. Why am I standing here listening to this twit go on and on about a fictional character?
I look down. I’m holding a drink in one hand and a cracker covered in some kind of beige substance in the other. Soft music is playing. I glance around. Several other people, standing in small groups, are also engrossed in conversations.
I hate parties, absolutely hate them. Just the thought of going to someone’s house or apartment and standing around eating crappy food, drinking cheap alcohol and having to talk to people almost makes me nauseous. Small talk, mindless inane chatter grates on me like fingernails on a chalkboard.
And I despise them all, not just parties where I don’t really know anyone (although they are the worst), I mean any party, even my own birthday party. I’m uncomfortable at family reunions.
I look around the room again. Nobody seems familiar. Who are these people? I scrutinize every face. Work? School? Where the hell do I know them from? But more importantly: why am I here?
“Will you excuse me?” the Harry Potter woman asks.
Before I can say anything, she walks away. That’s a relief I think, and begin searching for an exit. The room is large and bright white; it almost looks like a room in a museum except for the lack of anything on the walls. In the middle sits a long red couch. The only other furniture is a small table and a couple of red chairs.
I see a doorway and head for it. Just before I get there, a man with bushy brown hair and a neatly trimmed thin mustache steps in front of me.
“Jerry! Good to see you!”
He extends his hand and after a moment I reach to shake it, suddenly aware the cracker is gone. Did I eat it? I can’t remember.
This man starts talking to me like we’re old friends even though I have no idea who he is.
“…and it was Carol’s turn for the carpool but she completely forgot! Do you believe that?”
I nod. Suddenly, across the room, I finally see someone I recognize: My best friend, Steve. I smile and start walking over to him without saying anything to Thin Mustache. Amazingly, he keeps talking.
“Steve,” I say. “Hey, Steve, man am I glad to see you-“
He turns around and gives me a strange look. It’s not Steve.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I mumble.
I could’ve sworn it was Steve. When I turn around Thin Mustache is there still talking.
“…almost every night I’m out there. Yup, me and my telescope. It’s a funny thing actually…”
As I began heading for the doorway again, I notice the cracker is back in my hand.
“Jerry!” someone yells. I turn in the direction of the voice.
“Jerry, this is Roger!” A smiling woman is pointing at a young man. “He’s Sarah’s brother-in-law!”
“Steve!” I yell. This time I know it’s him. He’s in a corner chatting up a cute blonde girl. “Hey, Steve, how’s it going?”
Steve turns around. But again it’s not him.
“Wha?” I stammer.
The man ignores me and resumes his conversation.
I have to get out of here. As I start heading for the doorway again, I see an amazingly beautiful redhead smiling at me from across the room. At first I think she must be looking at someone else. I glance around but no one else is paying her any attention.
She smiles at me again. I guess I could stay a little longer. She puts her drink down and starts walking towards me.
All of a sudden I’m incredibly nervous. Why would this woman want to talk to me? What could she possibly see in me with my big ears and receding hair line and beer belly? I feel sweat dripping down my forehead. She’s getting closer, what should I do? Suddenly she’s there in front of me. My entire body is damp. I open my mouth to say something but nothing comes out.
“There you are, Max!”
She rushes past me and hugs a man I swear wasn’t there a second ago.
“…that’s when the kids rushed in. Do you believe that?”
I turn around; it’s Thin Mustache again.
The lone doorway is on the other side of the room. Not taking my eyes off of it, I head for it again. I breathe a sigh of relief when I get there and then step through.
I expect to find some kind of front entrance to this house or whatever I’m in or at least a kitchen, something with a door that will lead outside. But I don’t expect this.
It’s a very similar room with the same furniture and bare white walls. Another doorway is on the other side and this time I think I see what looks to be moonlight streaming through it.
“…and Voldemort can’t believe what’s happened…”
Jesus, another woman talking about Harry Potter. Wait, is this the same woman from before or someone else?
“Steve!” I shout. It’s him this time; it has to be.
I yank his shoulder and turn him around. It’s not him.
Across the room a smiling man is pointing at a woman. “This is Rita! Josh’s neighbor!”
“Did I ever tell you about my new telescope?”
Thin Mustache is back. I ignore him and bolt to the doorway. But wait, is this the doorway I just came through, or the new one? My head aches.
Suddenly an incredibly beautiful woman with long, dark hair smiles at me from across the room. What’s my hurry to leave? I can’t remember.
She puts her drink down and starts walking towards me. My heart starts pounding. How could I possibly talk to this woman? She’s obviously completely out of my league; what would I say to her? Jesus, here she comes. I begin to stutter something but she steps past me and hugs a tall man. I watch them for a moment and then start moving again to the doorway.
Finally, after pushing past several people, I make it there. It’s the new doorway, I’m certain of it. I step through. I enter another all white room with the same furniture. What I thought was moonlight was the glare from a fluorescent bulb.
“…and now Ron and Hermione get involved…”
What’s going on here? My head is killing me. I drop the drink and cracker on a small table and rub my temples. The right side of my head feels weird, kind of like it’s dented.
I feel dizzy and fall into one of the empty red chairs. Foggy memories begin drifting back to me. I remember hitting my head. But where, how did that happen? All of a sudden I have it: I was in a car accident! Yes, that’s it. I was driving home past the school and didn’t see the crossing guard in time. I swerved to avoid those kids. Then I hit a tree! Now I remember everything.
I glance around the room. I must be in a coma or something. Jesus, now it all makes sense. I slammed into that tree after I swerved so I wouldn’t hit those- Wait, I did swerve in time, didn’t I? I mean, I was probably driving a little fast but I wasn’t driving recklessly, if they try to charge me with reckless driving again I’ll- I swerved, I know I did. But what was that thumping noise? There were a couple of them actually. And it felt like I ran over something. No, that must have just been the curb. I couldn’t have-
“Jerry! There you are! Did I tell you about my new telescope?”
I stand up abruptly and with both hands grab Thin Mustache’s jacket. “Hey, what is this!?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, what is this, where am I?”
“A party of course,” he says with a little smile.
“A party? What party? When is it over?”
He looks confused. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“When does the party end!” I scream, feeling the blood rush to my face.
Out of the corner of my eye I see Steve walk out of the room.
“Steve!” I yell and race to the doorway, tossing the new drink and cracker to the floor. I enter another room. Steve is gone. But I’m not in another room, it’s the same room with the same white walls, the same furniture, the same people.
Suddenly, holding a drink in one hand and a cracker in the other, I find myself standing in front of a woman.
She’s talking about Harry Potter.
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Portland Fiction Project
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