And anyway the rollerskating ended at Midnight so everyone poured out into the blinding white light of the parking lot all at once and all my friends have all sort of loosely decided to leave this godawful place and meet up at Denny’s in 10 minutes and everyone is racing around like they’ve just robbed a bank and a core group is trying to figure out the right combination of Ubers and Lyfts and sober drivers to get all of us there as fast as possible but by this point I’ve poured almost an entire bottle of tequila into that part of me that misses her terribly and that part sharply reminds my brain that Denny’s doesn’t serve tequila so instead I ask this girl wearing a big stupid brown hat for a cigarette even though I don’t smoke and she smiles and says something I don’t quite catch but I laugh at anyways and my big laugh somehow licks the stamp and seals the envelope on this great new friendship we suddenly share and she smiles at me quickly with her thousand perfect little white teeth and reaches into her cool leather fringe bag and pushes a cigarette into my hand like some sort of bribe and as I stick it in my mouth a model friend of hers who looks just like my friend Kristi but super hot appears in the light out of nowhere with a lit match and I wave it off with an impatient hand explaining that I don’t smoke and now they’re both laughing and my friend James is suddenly grabbing my shoulder trying to pull me to an Uber and Denny’s but my new best friend with the hat and the teeth gives me a look like a snake gives a mouse and says “why don’t you come back with us?” and I watch her gesture with an impossibly long tanned arm to an impossibly large black SUV waiting with an impossibly dark gaping hole of an open door yawning wide like the mouth of some hungry pulsing aquatic beast and as fake Kristi and the gorgeous brown hat & perfect teeth grab each of my hands in theirs laughing and pulling me toward their dark chariot I look back at James and say “the open grave awaits” only half jokingly before lowering my head and letting myself be pulled into the deep cool cavern of the back seat where a thousand tiny perfect white teeth now smile next to me in the dark.
Then we are all motion and force and rolling destruction and the car jumps back and forth with violence and the night outside is whipping by behind thick dim windows and there are more people in here than I thought, way more people and they are all screaming to some song I’ve never heard and they are all beautiful and wearing things that jangle and scrape against one another like gnashing metal fangs and I am screaming to the music too but don’t know the words exactly and the black part inside of me that misses her whispers that this is a good idea, a great idea actually, possibly the best idea we’ve ever had and the perfect teeth are whispering filthy things in my ear and fake Kristi is laughing at some joke and she’s working her hand inside my belt and there is a guy with a beard who keeps saying “I love this guy!” and the car bucks and jumps twice more before I realize he’s talking about me and then a part of me notices I’m wearing someone else’s shirt and I remember this one time on the beach you and I were at this birthday party and I was so tired from something we had gone to the night before and you took my sore broken head in both of your hands so gently and put it in your lap and I looked up at your smiling face and marveled at how it eclipsed the sun just so and you were wearing those big brown sunglasses that you always said made you look like an old woman but I always loved and I watched how the seagulls circling around above your head up in the bright sky made a perfect backdrop as you gazed down at me from the heavens and I remember the way the wind made the loose strands of your hair lightly dance across my face and how the white noise of the ocean drowned out everything else except the two of us and you leaned down and kissed me and all I could think was please please please let this all end right now let this be the last thing I see let this be the last moment I live just let me curl up and stay inside this perfect moment forever and the SUV suddenly stops with a jolt and the perfect white teeth whisper in my ear “let’s get you inside, sweetie”.
And then we’re inside this giant mansion and I have no idea where I am or who these people are and the guy with the beard screams “KARAOKE!” and my phone screams 3% CRITICAL BATTERY! and one part of my brain thinks “this is not good” and the other part says “let’s drink more tequila” and all the guys are making some sort of sacrificial bonfire in a fireplace that is large enough for me to walk into while barely lowering my head and I am drinking more tequila and a pair of models in white denim cutoffs are singing karaoke on some ridiculous massive expanse of a wall mounted television and I am sitting on a couch and my glass is empty and my phone is dead and there are all these dogs running around and one of the guys is dancing on the table screaming the words to Hey Jude and the perfect teeth are asking me if I like drugs and I say I don’t think this is how Paul McCartney meant for this song to be sung and fake Kristi has her hand up my shirt only it’s someone else’s shirt really and she asks me who Paul McCartney is and I think she’s joking so I laugh and she laughs but she’s serious and I am looking at her thinking to myself how in the movies the last time people see each other is always so dramatic and it always happens on a cliff or in an airport or in the middle of Times Square at rush hour when it’s raining and both people are holding each other tight and she’s crying into his chest and he’s holding her close looking off into the distance when in real life the last time you see someone always ends up being at some boring diner at 3 in the afternoon the day before she moves away to another state forever and at this diner maybe they serve little bottles of wine so the both of you are drinking and maybe you two end up drinking a little too much and are suddenly talking about the years when you dated and you tell her you still love her by accident it just sort of slips out and she looks away out the window and you’re suddenly sure she’s going to say it back but instead she says something you don’t quite catch so you laugh and she looks back at you with a sad smile like “see? you never listen” and that look, it sobers you up and you ask for the check and out in the parking lot you hug each other and you hold her tight for a single moment, feeling her body against yours, knowing that — even though you’ve made plans to come visit her in a few months when the weather warms up — neither of you will see each other in person ever again.
You’ll remember that hug, the familiar shape of her body under that chunky green sweater, on a brisk Sunday afternoon in the Denny’s parking lot, for the rest of your life.
As the perfect teeth fill my empty glass with more poison, I look across the room and notice my shirt on a guy paging through the karaoke songbook and stumble over and after getting past a fist bump and a few more “I love this guy!”s manage to pull my shirt that now reeks like sandalwood and stale man-bun back over my head and the fake Kristi takes my hand in hers and drags me outside to smoke and we are in some sort of spanish courtyard and there are a million dogs running around and now I am holding another unlit cigarette between my teeth and fake Kristi has her hand in my back pocket and is working on unbuckling my belt and talking about threesomes or maybe it’s something about gluten free cheese and I don’t hear what she says so I laugh and then she laughs back like we’re best friends and I think to myself what is it with these fucking people and their big house and roaring fire and tan skin and stupid drugs and tiny dogs and perfect bodies and awful karaoke and so many dogs and expensive clothes and I mean seriously how many fucking dogs live in this house because right now I can count at least eight and I am so hungry for a goddamn grand slam breakfast I could easily murder every single one of these people and burn down this house and ride all these dogs to Denny’s like some kind of white haired god of the underworld being carried forth on his army of pugs and yippy chihuahuas and have zero remorse save for the fact that the battery on my phone is too drained to capture any of it on Instagram so what’s the point.
Fake Kristi is still working on my pants and is now kissing my neck and the dark voice in my heart has changed his demands from tequila to pancakes and the girl with the million little perfect white rat teeth and big floppy brown hat comes outside and announces that Trent has found the cocaine and asks if we want any and fake Kristi says she does and I ask rat teeth if I can use her phone for a second and she gives me a look and asks why and I give her a look like a snake gives a mouse and say “cuz I wanna take some selfies, sweetie”. She smiles and hands it over.
I lock myself in the cavernous marble and gold leaf bathroom and really really want to throw up but instead I use her phone to call myself an Uber and then I stick my face under the cold running water before leaving the phone in the bathroom and walking out the front door to the curb where I climb into the blue Prius that’s patiently waiting.
“Where to?” the guy asks.
I look out the window at the massive house squatting like a slick white toad in the pale light of the early morning. I think of the beach. I wonder where you are now, what you’re doing. Do you ever think of me the way I think of you? Will I ever see you again? Sometimes everything seems dark and fast and cruel and terrible, but we forget: Life is only ever what we choose it to be. It’s the way we live our lives that makes Life what it is.
Maybe I’ll come visit when the weather gets warm.
“Denny’s.” I say.
We pull away.