By Chris Hanel © 2005
Finally... after the preparations and invitations and politics of who to invite and who to snub and who to make upset by not snubbing someone else, it was finally party night. I had been preparing all week for this one get-together, mostly because Jen was coming over. Screw everyone else at that party, Jen will be here. I’d somehow scored a date with her to my school dance the next week. She lives half an hour away, so I don’t get to see her much. Tonight will be gold.
Jen has this habit of laughing when I'm being my normal self and she then says, Chris, how can you still be single? I would normally say, because I'm still trying to hook up with you, but I always stop myself. I remember the stories about long distance relationships and how everyone says they're hell and I know my hell would be my parents interrogating me about a four-digit phone bill, and so I politely answer, I have no idea, you tell me. She laughs again, just like before, and I continue to entertain the thought that hell can't be that bad this time of year.
So after a week of not getting asked about my marital status, I missed it immensely. I decided to have a party for friends, and the main reason was so I could see Jen again. Of course, I didn't say that. That would sound lame and desperate. It WAS lame and desperate, but hey, who needs to hear about my problems? (You're reading this, so I guess YOU do.) Anyway, I couldn't wait for Jen to get here.
That is, I wasn't allowed to wait, because she showed up 45 minutes early.
JEN! I said at the door with a look of bursting jubilation, mixed with the composure to try and hide it. Why are you so early? She grinned and said, why not? I wholeheartedly agreed as she gave me a hug and as I turned around I spotted another person, who happened to be male, and I asked who's this you've brought along with you? And she proceeded to introduce me to her boyfriend Jake.
At this point, my body decided to form a committee. My brain made a motion saying how stupid I was for not taking the "I'm dating a guy, it's not serious" comment seriously enough and my hands were belligerently saying punch the guy, just for fun, shits and giggles, and my brain seconded by lamenting about how it now knew what hell felt like, and my mouth ever so boldly and wisely closed the meeting by saying Nice to meet you Jake.
He said hi.
Jen smiled. I wondered if she knew exactly what had just transpired.
There was an awkward pause and silence that stretched on for an eternal few seconds. I grew weak from the lack of oxygen in the air, as the tension had quickly filled the room and replaced it. It was so thick I could cut it with a knife, along with Jake in the process. Jen kept smiling, either completely oblivious to what was going on in my head or just covering up her dread of the coming moments much better than I. Jake tried to smile, but sneezed halfway. Jen explained he had a cold.
I could see that. Right this way to the party, Jen... Rudolph- er, I
So I walk them downstairs and my mind is racing and Jen comments on how nice the house is while we walk through the kitchen and I think this is going to be a disaster and I say thank you and Jake sneezes again and we get to the basement and we sit down and Robin Williams is on and we all remember how funny his comedy act was and now all I can think is this is a mistake as we all try to laugh about his funny remark about Laurence Olivier and Ripple Wine.
This is a mistake.
Hello, Laurence Olivier for Ripple Wine.
This is a big mistake.
Take 2 - Laurence Ripple for Olivier Wine.
This is a HUGE mistake.
Take 3 - Hewwo!!! - LaurenceRibble for Owiviey Whine.
We all attempt to laugh at Robin playing a drunk Mr. Owiviey and Jen looks at me and says, What? from the couch where she's sitting ever so close to Jake where I can't help but notice they're holding hands. I realize I said my last thought out loud because my committee has made my mouth spokesman by saying I've made a huge mistake out loud. I cover for the board by telling them I'd forgotten to ask them to take off their shoes and that my mom will yell at me when she sees the tracks. I smile when I realize I'm being honest and not bullshitting. Then I remember that since I'm being honest, my mom really WILL kill me, not that it's as bad as a four-digit phone bill, but why would that matter? Jen points out I'm still wearing my shoes too, and I thank her for pointing that out while I compare sins between wearing shoes in my house and stabbing me in the heart with an ice pick while acting as forbidden fruit in my basement. I throw my shoes in my room.
I'm sure I'm sweating a little and Robin makes a joke about drugs and it makes me wonder if Ritalin would be out of the question if I don't calm down. Get a grip! There's still 40 minutes until the party starts, and other people will get here and so I calculate there will be five minutes of actual conversation attempts and 35 minutes of awkward silences with a tad bit of small laughter at the television mixed in for color as Robin on the screen comments on Russians, sex, and swearing twice a sentence, and all of this will be covered up by intermittent noises coming from Jake's bright red schnozz. I try to picture him with antlers and the image secretly amuses me. My mom yells at me from upstairs. Jen laughs. Jake sneezes again and wipes his nose with the length of his sleeve. Short guy, but cocky, I note. The cockiness adds to him being unaware of the current situation. I don't blame him, I wouldn't see it coming either. I thank God I have to go upstairs and get yelled at because it's better than this awkward silence that is proving awfully noisy.
I go upstairs and get a shoe deal from my mom without the big contract. My part of the bargain is I’m supposed to take them off, and in return she won't shove my head through a wall. I negotiate it down to a lecture, and remind myself to give my agent a raise. I sign the dotted line and go back downstairs where I'm hoping I won't walk in on anything, considering Jen and Jake have been down there by themselves.
Instead of practicing breaking each other's body bubbles through tactile contact on multiple fronts, they laugh at a funny commercial while Jen tickles Jake a bit. I notice the commercial and decide that Robin must've been worried about those two as well and left for a few minutes. I decide not to tell that joke out loud. Wise decision.
Jen tells me she has to be home at 7:30. I’m wondering if this is bad news or good news, really, considering the situation. Of course, I act like it's bad news, which I’m convinced it is, cause I never see her. But if Jake keeps this cold up, I'm going to go crazy and shove Sudafed down his throat. I amuse myself by getting THAT mental image in my head, with Jake still wearing those antlers. I realize that I'm amused easily tonight. Are you sure you can't stay? Jen apologizes because since she lives out of town and she needs to be home early, which she neglected to tell me before, they need to leave even earlier. Earlier turns out to be in 30 minutes... when the party starts. The committee grumbles. I make some sorry comment which even I can't make out or remember to this day. Jake starts to sneeze, manages to stop himself, then lets the mother of all coughs come flying out. I realize as I look at him that if he could stop with the spastic sinuses and stop sitting so close to my date to WPA, I wouldn't know he existed. I tell him where to find Kleenex, and I make sure to refer to the box farthest from me, not the box about three feet behind him. He says thank you as he walks up the stairs with a sniffle. At this, I can't help but laugh. This whole situation has become morbidly funny to me. Jen smiles again... isn't Jake the greatest?
...the greatest WHAT? I think.
We sit at opposite ends of the room without saying much, at least I'm trying not to for some strange reason. Talk to her, dammit! But I can't. I use the TV as an excuse, acting as engrossed as I can. I've seen this particular show at least half a dozen times. I have it on tape, for god sake. I could get up and perform, line for line, joke for joke, four-letter word for four-letter word, this entire act. I don't tell Jen this. Instead, I stare at the screen, while Jen is probably trying to figure out why I’m acting weird and Jake is blowing his nose upstairs. Why is he taking so long?
So what are you wearing? Jen says out of the hush of the moment. My brain sorts through the innuendo and double entendre of what she's said, realizes she's talking about WPA, and informs my mouth of the proper thing to say: khakis and a nice dress shirt. I remind myself to thank my brain later for saving me from embarrassment. This night has really been a team effort for me and my mind. My brain, obviously kissing up, then notices how WPA didn't come up until Jake left. Going behind his back, eh? He doesn't know? Should I be having these dangerous thoughts? I tell my brain to shut up but he's going full steam now. I look at Jen and decide that beyond death and taxes, there is one certain thing:
Mixed signals are a royal pain in the ass.
Jen goes upstairs to see what's taking so long. I picture him trying to figure out how the Kleenex magically pops out of the box when you pull a tissue out, and I again find it amusing. Of course, now I'm making an enemy out of someone who is probably a pretty nice guy who just happens to be quiet and has really busy sinuses, not to mention my date to WPA. It's just me and Robin downstairs. I'm still lonely though. Wait... wasn't that the reason you invited her over, cause you were lonely? I grow tired of seeing this act for the umpteenth time and go upstairs to leave Robin to entertain my couch. I look into the kitchen to see Jen talking to my mom.
Jen... is talking... to my MOM.
Battle stations. Red alert. This is not a drill. I repeat: NOT A FUCKING DRILL. I realize that I've missed about three minutes of possibly very embarrassing anecdotes, along with Jen getting her two cents in... the horror. They both look at me at the same time as I appear and start laughing... I shudder to think of what is on their minds at this moment. I decide to get out of there while I still can. I feign a need for the bathroom, and when I knock, I find out where Jake has been all this time. There's nowhere to go without Jen doing something. If I go into my room, she'll wanna see it. I peek in at the remnants of a bomb explosion and decide it's a bad idea. So, once more into the breach, dear friends. It's time to use humor to get out of this, and to fire at will.
So what have you been telling her, mother? I say with particular emphasis on the 'mother' part. They both laugh. Good. Then I get another shot in... Jen, don't tell her about last weekend, whatever you do. Jen, ever the wit, catches on as she proceeds to swear an oath not to tell my mom about this fictional day from hell. It takes a while for my mom to see the ruse and I feel pretty clever.
Jake comes out of the loo and I catch on to the fact that he wasn't using the facilities, he was just blowing his nose... a LOT. Robin would make a joke about now, but I can't seem to find one in my memory banks good enough to use. The couple leaves as Jake plants a peck on Jen's cheek. I liked him better when all he did was sneeze. I know jealousy is a common emotion, but this is ridiculous. I make small talk. What are you guys doing tomorrow? Jen explains she's working tomorrow, so I’m supposed to stop by and visit. Jake remains silent, confident that a shrug of the shoulders is a satisfactory response. I don't really mind, considering I probably wouldn't have listened no matter what he would have said. Jake then announces he's off to start the car. Jen is still putting on her shoes. She brings up WPA again. I have the urge to ask why she isn't talking about this in front of Jake, but I don't want to say the wrong thing. My brain is pulling overtime keeping my mouth in check. I'll see you Saturday, Jen. Drive safe.
Aw, Chris, you're so sweet... how can you still be single? The car revs up outside, and I sigh in unison as she runs out and takes off.
Because you're not, Jen... because you're not. She doesn't hear me. Secretly, I wish she had.
Chris Hanel is a filmmaker from Hollywood, CA.
April 16, 2005
Self Control at New Heights
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