Tribulations

The underfed fled home on summer break. Invitations leaked out on Facebook. Boosters used words like shindig and soirée. This was a less obvious way of saying party. We were trained to overstate the hint and underestimate the open gesture. Obscurity was in vogue. The truth was yesterday’s newspaper.

I cut my losses and stayed inside. ‘I have too much on my many plates,’ I lied.

One night I came back to life. The air was warm and the sky was dark. Emily Clyde was having a party. Her place was an architect’s vague idea of a French château. I entered through the sliding gates, went around the side.

There was a well-lit crowd beneath a Bali hut in the backyard. I approached discreetly, found everyone how I’d left them. Tanned skin, teeth gleaming.

‘Surprise!’ I screamed.

This was the understatement of the night. I did a quick loop, high-fiving guys and hugging girls. Everyone kept touching my face and saying my full name.

Jon Whip wielded a cigarette in my direction. He was wearing a Kony 2012 t-shirt underneath a suede blazer. ‘Fuck, no way, bro! Where’ve you been?

I didn’t know the sureness in my own voice. ‘Keeping busy. Hanging in there.’

Later, alone, I wondered: Where am I hanging? To what am I hanging onto?

In narrative time I ate my cake and kept it for later. I double-pumped beers, dropped Jägerbombs, grinning madly. The main tête-à-tête was how great it was to catch up. I kept my face straight when I said that it was great!

But the weather threatened to deliver something. Strong winds blew. Storm clouds floated overhead, bloated and ready to give. Eventually they did. Water fell in sheets through the bamboo. We ran inside, dripping wet, making a mess of the mosaics. The only option was to strip down and dry off with the terrycloth towels.

Call it dumb luck, but I was in fucking rapture. Demure girls grew wanton, craven boys turned brave. Everyone’s worst intentions were clear-cut and ready to be tapped.

Johanna Rhodes climbed onto the bar, unclipped her padded bra. ‘We used to drink, screw, whatever. Now we go out to get our photos taken.’ She proposed a motion of no photography. The motion passed 46-3.

Danny Canning unzipped his fly, filled in the gaps. ‘Jodie’s bulimic. Steve’s bipolar. Sarah got an abortion! Nathan’s asexual. Jules is cheating on James with Sam Cunningham. Sam has syphilis. He gave it to Nicole who gave it to me.’

There was a mass cleansing. The named their lifted hands, accepted fault, forgave each other for their sins and tribulations. Jakob Jones meant it when he said it was transcendent, man. We all got off on the ecstasy of honesty.

Kate Taylor: ‘I survived childhood anxiety.’

Eric Oliver: ‘I suffer from mature ejaculation.’

Emily Clyde: ‘Mum has cancer. Dad’s leaving.’

Jon Whip: ‘I stuck Emily’s toothbrush up my ass.’

Peter Wex: ‘Entry gave me an erection.’

The circle turned to me. I was unused to the truth. Now I moved into plain view. There were too many secrets and limited time to admit them.

I yelled, ‘28% of the girls I’ve slept with were in a relationship. 18% were paid. I didn’t sign the petition for equal rights, but I did inhale. I’ve eaten three different kinds of whale. Various critics have described me as sexually lackluster. I never got over the divorce. My bar mitzvah was hoax. Life won’t live up to the hype. Death is worse than a sharp poke in the eye. The gist is the bit that’s missing.’

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