Tuesday, September 28, 2010

ANDY ITWARU ON BIRTHDAYS

 I’ve attended a slew of birthday parties in the last while. They all went well and I had a great time, although that is not always the case. Here is a story about a less than pleasurable experience celebrating the anniversary of someone’s birth. Please note that names have been changed in order to protect certain individual’s identities. My name is still here, if that’s any consolation.

Perched on the creaky steps of an ancient looking townhouse, I wonder if it’s too late to leave if I’ve already rung the doorbell. Too late- A door swings open, and a head peers out. Mona’s hair was a ravenous black with sprawling curls, tied back as to not draw attention away from her face. If I was away at sea for several years and blinded, I could still recall her pouty lips, mocha complexion and coke bottle frame in photographic detail, as she’d seemingly occupied more space in my head than my brain ever could have.  She pauses for a second, examining the twitchy silhouetted figure shifting awkwardly on her doorstep. Her apparent faith in her own eyesight led her to believe what would otherwise be an absurd notion. I’d actually shown up at a social gathering.


Her surprise was highlighted by an initial greeting of ‘…Andy?’ I confirmed that it was in fact, me. I didn’t want to keep her in suspense, but more so, because I couldn’t think of an appropriate joke for the situation. She ran out and squeezed me so quickly, if we’d been in a film you’d think a few frames were missing. Hugging me so tight I entertained the notion that her arms must have crossed over twice, she yelled into my left ear  ‘I’m glad you came’ I agreed, although I’m prone to lie from time to time.  My embrace was unenthused in contrast to hers. Purposely so, if my hug was in direct relation to my feelings about her, I would have surely ruptured the poor girl’s spine, and I didn’t intend on giving the gift of paralysis on her twentieth birthday. Instead my fingertips lightly grazed the sharp edges of her shoulder blades, and even that slight contact brought me to dizzying heights I’d only experienced when I ate two magic brownies at once on a dare.
Gatherings of any kind were not my thing, and Mona was shocked that I’d shown up, though probably not as shocked as I was. I’ve never been much of a social butterfly, opting instead to remain in the cocooned stage. In spite of this, the first five minutes I’d spent at Mona’s birthday were the best time I’ve ever had at a party. It’s too bad she had to ruin it all by taking me inside.
            The house was filled with people I either hated or didn’t like. Several indistinguishable familiars were wearing sequined t-shirts so tight you’d think they bought them at Baby Gap, and those were just the guys at the party, all sporting designer brand names as to alert passers by the exact company that had ripped them off. The girls were all nice to look at, but any sort of small talk equated to a kind of mental enema, but without the cleansing effect. To be fair to the other party goers, they were all heavily intoxicated before I arrived, and were probably not functioning at their intellectual peaks. I was totally sober. Never a fan of alcohol, weed was always my vice of choice. My dependence on it was (is? Always?) borderline obsessive. So much so, that I decided to quit smoking pot forever for that afternoon. Hoping the bong hits I took that morning would hold me over till the next day.
            Surveying the landscape from a distance, I felt like a foreigner in a country where everyone else spoke ‘Fucked up’. As I was plotting my escape, I felt an arm drape over my waist, followed by Mona’s head nestling between my neck and shoulder. Strands of wavy hair landing in my eye and mouth, I acted annoyed in order to mask my giddiness. I desperately wanted to believe that this closeness meant something, but my inner cynic wouldn’t allow me that luxury. The overwhelming aroma of booze wafted out of her breath like stink lines from a cartoon skunk, which led me to believe Mona was looking less for romance, and more for something to keep her upright. What little optimism I had began to claw at my inner skeptic, she could have clung to anyone, but she chose me. At the time my biggest fear was rejection, I wish it still was, when life starts spiraling out of control one wishes to be able to fear silly things such as that. But at that time, the idea of making some type of play for Mona and being turned down would’ve been unbearable.
                       

I met Mona in a park. I was looking for a lighter and she didn’t have one. Then I asked her if she had rolling papers, she said no, then I asked her if she had any herb, she said no, which sucks, because if she said yes it would have made for a more interesting story, but I was happy enough that it started a conversation. Somehow we got to the subjects of boyfriends, I informed her that I didn’t have one, but sadly she did. I kept talking to her, she’d managed to capture my interest, which is rare for me, I’ve always assumed I had an intense case of ADHD, but I never knew for sure, as I can’t even sit down to look for a place to get tested for it. I did an admirable job of pretending the boyfriend didn’t faze me, I told her to never bring him around when we went out, unless he picked up the check. She laughed, under the false assumption I was kidding.  After that, we stayed friends, although I’ve never believed you can be friends with someone you want to have sex with. As aloof as I may seem to some people, this robot does have feelings, and for whatever reason, I- just like everyone else, have this innate need to ‘couple’.  With Mona, I wanted more, and my gut feeling was she did too.


Mona’s grip around my waist tightened and I snapped back into reality. I started to run my fingers through her hair, but stopped half way out of cowardice. I scanned the room in search of her boyfriend. He was nowhere to be found. They’d had a fight earlier that week; she was upset with him about abruptly leaving the country to accept a job in Detroit. She called me in hysterics after the fight. I told her the situation wasn’t as grave as it appeared on the surface level, if anything it was a blessing, an opportunity to try new things (Editors note: Insert wink). I make no apologies for my behavior, all my life I’d been labeled as the ‘good boy’, but the older I was getting the more I realized that just like everyone else I was a flawed human being, who had wants and desires. I was being a weasel, but I was going to be a happy weasel. My morality would occasionally nag at my psyche, so I tricked myself into believing that I was acting for the greater good. I’ve always thought that any girl who was not with me could do better. So my actions were just a manifestation of my core beliefs. Still, I was weary about being too affectionate with Mona, on the off chance the boyfriend showed up. I was built for pleasure, and am not the fighting type. I was not looking for any sort of confrontation that night. I hadn’t been in a fight since my senior year in high school, and that fight was with a freshman. I’d like to say that I won, but that girl had long nails.
‘WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!’ The familiar battle cry was heard in the distance. Mona unclenched her grip and yelled in the direction of all the commotion. ‘Gracie get off the table! If you break it my parents will murder me!”
Gyrating suggestively on the oak finished table, Gracie’s hips swayed in rhythm with the obnoxious synth pop blaring from the laptop speakers nearby, encircled by a moat of douche bags encouraging her to continue her drunken burlesque performance. Mona’s request was met with apathy. ‘Bitch please! You know you love it!” Gracie screamed defiantly. She’s finally coaxed off the table when Mona informs her that the ‘Comedian guy’ was present at the party. Gracie seemed excited to meet me.
I’d spoken to Gracie via three way phone calls with Mona, and by spoken, I mean listened while they talked and gossiped. Throwing in the occasional one liner to remind them I was there, and to temporarily validate my existence. We were planning to all go see me do stand up, but that was in three days, and the party was right now. Her rail thin frame oozed sexuality, lips pursed she slowly walked towards me, staring so deep into my eyes I wouldn’t be surprised if she could read my thoughts, hopefully she couldn’t, because if she could, she’d be disgusted. She was not the prettiest girl I had ever seen, but when you’re face to face with her, you’d be hard pressed to find someone more erotic. She was seemingly built for sex, when she was first put together I wouldn’t be surprised if God himself asked if he could keep her. ‘How tall are you?’ She asked. As a short guy I’m used to this question. Girls usually ask this in order to gauge whether or not you fit their criteria to sleep with. Sort of like a carnival where ‘you must be this tall’ to ride. ‘How short are you?” I volleyed back. This elicited a girlish ‘tee-hee-hee’. I didn’t think what I said was funny, but a laugh’s a laugh and I’ll take it. Gracie laughed but Mona groaned. You can’t please everybody. Gracie was either touchy or horny (either one worked in my favor) she placed her hand on my chest and asked how I was getting home that night. While I was happy about the potential for dirty happenings, her question about how I was getting home, allowed me to go into the subway gag from my stand up act. I’m notoriously bad at reading signals from women, but Gracie practically had an ‘enter’ sign written on her stomach with an arrow pointing downwards. The subway gag killed! It was nice that she seemed to want me, but the showman in me was more preoccupied with killing.
While Gracie laughed, twirled her hair, and moved closer towards me, Mona’s expression was sour. Maybe because it was the third time she’d heard the subway routine that week (I personally think it gets funnier every time). Just as I was about to finish the bit, Mona yanked me by the arm and began to pull me upstairs. At first I resisted, as I thought I could follow up with my bit about silent letters (aren’t they unnecessary!?) but she insisted we go, as she had something important to tell me. Nearly ripping my limb from its socket, Mona drags me towards her bedroom. In my mind, the puzzle pieces start fitting together, at first forming a generic landscape, and then coming to the more obvious conclusion. I realize what was happening, and I begin to internally chant my usual mantra: ‘Don’t screw this up! Don’t screw this up! Don’t screw this up!’ I psyche myself up mentally, envisioning myself as a pro-wrestler doing an intense interview ‘This Sunday on the PAY PER VIEW, I’M TAKING HER TO THE LIMIT, BROTHER!’
She pulls me into her bedroom; it takes all of my strength not to squeal with glee. She sits me down on her mattress, and I notice the hello kitty bedspread. ‘That might slow me down a bit’ I think to myself. Mona than places her hand in mine, and begins listing all of my positive qualities. ‘Andy, you’re smart you’re witty….’
Uh oh, usually when a girl starts listing all of your positive qualities it means she's preparing to destroy you, although this time it may be different. As I internalize that thought my inner cynic begins to laugh hysterically, and my inner optimist admits defeat.
‘… And you’re the most insightful friend I’ve ever had.’
I guess we’re not having sex. She told me she made the difficult decision to head to Detroit to be with her boyfriend. She'd have to take a year off school, and get some sort of menial job in order to support herself, but it was a small price to pay for being with someone that she cares about. Apparently my advice to ‘try new things’ helped her to realize that a move to Detroit could expand her horizons a bit.  Then, just as a mother would do to comfort her child after scraping his knee (not my mother, but you get the idea) she kissed me on the forehead. ‘You’re like the brother I’ve always wanted’ she says walking towards the door.
I sat on Mona’s bed for twenty minutes after that. Staring at the Hello Kitty bed sheets, I imagined that damned cat giggling with a Japanese accent saying ‘You get nothing ha ha ha’. There I sat, dead eyed, and mouth agape. Then as if a sudden bolt of information was shot into my head with a magnum, a name flashed into my mind, ‘Gracie!’ then a world shot into my head ‘Horny!’ I raced downstairs, but she was gone, as were a good chunk of the male guests, probably not by coincidence.
At that point, I realized it was technically tomorrow, so I make plans to hit the bong when I head home. God I hate birthdays.

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