I was 22, and for the first time
I knew no one at the party
my friends had bailed,
and I just stood there, obscure
at the periphery of beer pong
with the smokers,
laughing when they laughed.
sometimes I’d bend to pick up a ball
that had rolled between my feet.
some guy would thank me
and I’d flinch when our hands met
in the handing-off.
it was kind of quiet there,
in the basement. with the door shut
you could barely hear the music,
the party up above a kind of mass
that swelled and settled
as the ceiling groaned under its weight.
down here it splintered off
into pockets of gossip
and aimless flirting. taken
under the wing of some girl
to a ring of friends riffing
on someone I’d never meet,
I stood darting my eyes
between their faces, searching
for ways around
the velvet rope of their grins.
they’d split to piss and come back
with dispatches from the field:
a pizza lost in transit.
some freshman passed out
hunched over the toilet and
when you walked in
you could hear his wet snores
echo off the bowl.
laughing at the right times, looping
all the right animations,
trying not to burp.
maybe the next joke will crack it open
and I’ll slide in,
the perfect size for that space.
I’ll say something
that everyone will laugh at
and they’ll lift me up
on wings of their acceptance,
up the stairs, out the door,
and bathing in their light.
at 1 AM the beer was gone
and the basement near-empty.
two guys calling a ride,
another asleep in a lawn chair.
I wove past the stragglers and upstairs
trying to get un-marooned.
everyone left was on the couch
binging Vine compilations
to run out the clock.
it was a cuddle pile –
too much red tape.
I ordered the Uber
and waited out front, where Toilet Boy
was being coaxed back to life by his friends.
hey man do you want water? hey,
run in and get him some water,
make sure he has water.
alright buddy, just a little more
and once we get in the car
you’re golden. is he
going with you? yeah,
he can sleep on my couch.
you’re gonna be fine, buddy.
as I listened I pictured myself
passing out on the curb
and dying alone and friendless
in my own puke.
I spoke my first word all night
passing Toilet Boy to get to the car.
surfacing from between his own knees
with half-lidded eyes, he slurred,
“you’ve got a blood stain on your ass,”
and I said, “thanks.”