Tuesday, November 27, 2012

We can, as it turns out, have nice things. We're old enough.

Walter had never enjoyed himself at a party before. People scared him, social skills escaped him, and the thought of getting a large group together in a room brought him to ponder only the most inane questions. How is the mercury within the thermostat supposed to compensate for the chill air of repeated entrances and exits by smokers, as well as the labored and heated breathing of those who scream and shout for charades? It was probably true that at most parties that the poisonous liquid metal behind the glass and needles related better to Walter than any of the guests he observed. You can be certain that he is not a sociopath, despite this strange comparison, because he is not comforted by the fact at all.
Walter drank wine because he wanted to belong. He didn’t care much for the taste, and he had read several articles on the damaging factors of sulfites, but he wanted to belong. He took deep, flavorful sips, and fought against the urge to wince at some of the harsher tones, so as not to seem under-confident in himself (he was). The bits of cheese on trays throughout the room did not tempt him, because he had watched too many documentaries on how it was made, and could no longer appreciate the pasteurization process as the miracle that it had been made out to be. He ran through one of these processes in his head, attempting to calculate backward how long before this moment at the party his hostess had unwrapped and de-waxed the Havarti before him, how long before that it had been on a truck to an independent market, how long before that the market had ordered it be taken from the wooden shelves of an aging room three states away, and how long before that it had come from a cow’s udder and entered the process, as well as whether that cow was actually Danish in origin. It was during this extraordinarily unnecessary train of thought that Walter was bumped.

Red wine, meet carpet. Carpet, say hello to red wine. You two are going to be friends.
Walter didn’t notice the music in the background before, but certainly heard it stop as the glass bounced upon the floor. It was a thing of beauty to see the trail of wine soar and arc, then splash down as a scarlet trail across the plush white berber. He moved swiftly down toward the floor, cocktail napkins in hand, attempting to soak up as much of the vile red as possible before it became one with the floor forever. He furiously blotted while making promises to himself. After this, never another party – not wine and cheese, not holiday nog, not even a family birthday – Walter was happy to live in seclusion until such a time as there were no longer parties, grapes, or napkins in the world, so that the situation could never be described and the embarrassment could never be relived. Still blotting, he knew inside that he would always know, and that was enough to keep him away. Perhaps he could use his time not socializing to take a second job at night, open a new account for cash deposits from waiting tables or cleaning messes, and then use it to send a nameless cashier’s check to the hostess of the party for her new carpet, and perhaps even matching drapes. ­­­It might remind her of the terrible offense that he was currently trying to blot, ever more furiously, but at least his name could be removed, and perhaps one of these other onlookers could be credited (or seize credit) as the good Samaritan who, present on the night of the white berber/red wine catastrophe, decided to secretly do the right thing, despite not being in the wrong, like Walter. Looking up for who might be such a person, Walter realized that no one was actually looking at him. In fact, the music had never even stopped. True, several bustled about, fetching club soda and ratty towels, but others discussed the same old remedies for different stains their grandmothers taught them, and still even others talked of nothing of the sort, as if the stain on the carpet was not the largest problem in the world or even the room. Walter, trying to take this all in, felt his blotting hand stopped, seized by the wrist of his hostess. He calmed down as he looked in her face, and she spoke one word that made everything okay.

He breathed a sigh of relief, not considering even for a moment the fact that scotch-guard chemicals might have been agitated by his furious blotting, and that he could be welcoming them into his lungs right now for an awful case of bronchitis. He didn’t think of that at all, because he felt a sense of serenity and elation, as his guilt melted away like the soft mozzarella set too close to the candles. The fading adrenaline was replaced with alcohol-tempered endorphins, and Walter slowly stood, backing away from the stain that would never be.
Walter liked parties. People might even begin to grow on him.
originally posted on the tumblr 10/19, migratred here on 11/27. photo credit: @bartkowj

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