December 31, 2008:
Before she became Red to me, she was Geena. We’d gotten to know each other well enough that she invited me to a New Years shindig she was throwing at her condo. I brought my son and my friend Karen, because my son loved parties where he could hone his extensive vocabulary whilst flirting with the ladies. I brought Karen because she called me out of the blue to vent about having taken a break from her Romeo.
We’d dabbled in perpendicular associations after our respective divorces, but our friendship had become a hands free dynamic long before the Dame came along. Besides, the Dame and me had forged a compact inside our long distance relationship in which we socialized with friends of the opposite sex- including former flames. It was a matter of trust, and a dearth of friends.
My son talked politics with Geena’s daughter while Karen found some shot partners. I hung with a lesbian couple, and we kvetched on celebrity crushes. When the clock struck nine o’clockish, I collected my son and searched for Karen, who was having a blast and asking if we could stay till midnight.
I figured the night was still young and I’d be able to partake on the other side. So I drove my son home and headed back to the party, after which I called the Dame. Her plans had fallen through and she was short with me, so I decided against telling her I’d gone back to the party. But then she asked me and then I told her and then I promised to call her later, and then she told me she was going to sleep. If not for my schedule, I would’ve been there. And so I let it go and I hoped she would let it go, and I went back upstairs. I was intent on digging into a friendly beverage when I was swiped up by my new pals.
“We’re going dancing!” Tara said, as the party began heading out. A block and a half later, I was failing miserably on the dance floor, so I grabbed a beer and moved to where Karen and her new friends were sitting. By this point, Karen was several sheets into a stiff tequila wind and nursing a beer much too cozily with Paul, who oh by the way was Geena’s husband. So I tabled it with my sisters in rhyme, after which I danced up the floor to more proper conclusions thanks to an old school DJ who went heavy on disco.
When Geena wrangled up our motley crew, I couldn’t hit the door fast enough. I was feeling melancholic about Chi-town and dreading having to work the next day and bummed as all get out that I wasn’t feeling nearly as jovial as everybody else.
“Hey mister . . .”
It was Geena, sidling up next to me as if she could read my mind. Inside my depressed state, she was coming up aces. She asked about the Dame as we chatted our way back upstairs, where I constructed a martini for myself while Geena, Lori and Tara involved themselves in Gatsby sized vino glasses. I was feeling shin bone deep in a mellowed out feeling when Karen came in and handed me my coat. “You left it at the club, so we bummed a few cigs . . ,” She smiled.
We toasted the dwindling minutes as they teetered into dust and the hands of the clock reached for an indelicate breach. My brain began deconstructing a year whose wings had perched themselves into the vespers of a raging fire. I’d won and I’d lost and I’d given up trying to figure out the reasons why.
As midnight exploded, the martini swam upstream and the beer chaser dovetailed the setting magnificently as I let tomorrow work on its snooze. Me and Geena debated the best Bowie song while the girls took me to task for converting to deep dish over New York style. And just when the night had settled into a peaceful logic, one of Karen’s shot shuckers ran into the condo in a panic, “Your friend is bleeding in the hallway,”
Sure enough, Karen was sitting on the ground and bleeding from the forehead after hitting the astragal between a set of double doors which led to the elevators. “I’m fine!” she said drunkenly as Paul came out with a hand towel. I went back to grab my jacket and when I returned, she was gone. Geena wished me a vaya con dios and I went searching for a tall redhead doing a civil war drummer boy impersonation as I headed towards the parking garage.
There were plenty of times in my life where my past has spoken to me in bold cursive, but none quite so bizarrely. So I wasn’t shocked to find the parking garage booth had closed up shop, leaving me stuck between a gate and a single lane spiral I was never going to be able to navigate in reverse. I had two choices: crash through the fucking thing or try and lift it. I chose the latter and then cursed my way out of the garage, shortly thereafter finding Karen strolling down the street.
“Get in,” I said icily.
“Hey fuck you for laughing at me!” Karen slurred.
I pulled over and she got in, after which I told her where to go and how to get there. “I wasn’t laughing at you, so ease the fuck up,”
“I’m sure your girlfriend loves the fact that you were having such a great time with a married woman . .”
“What in the fuck does that even mean?”
“It was awkward!”
“No, awkward was whatever you and Paul were doing. We were dancing . . . and I’m pretty sure it was the only thing keeping Geena from scratching your eyes out,”
“Your girlfriend might not think this is so funny,”
I thought this black comedy of an evening had run out of surprises, as if there was a chance in hell the universe was done with me.