Midsummer Night Garden Party

He picks up the bag with the cheese and looks at the two packs of cigarettes on the passenger seat. He takes a few seconds to focus, to figure out what the question is. He was running late and had just decided that he was fashionably late, no need to apologize when arriving, even though he believed there was nothing fashionable in being late but the last time Eddie had a party almost everyone else had arrived at least a half hour late. And now there’s a new decision to make: only the open pack or both packs of cigarettes? He could end up smoking a lot if the drinking got heavy. But he was driving so that was not going to be reason for smoking too much. He grabs both packs. “Better safe than sorry. Hypocrite! What about remorse is better than regret?”

The spare pack slides into his left pocket. He contemplates the other pack. Cigarette plus joint? Or joint first? Or only the joint? Even walking slowly it’s only about three minutes to Eddie’s front door. Smoke at the car? No! He’s already late. Joint only and probably half of it. He doesn’t want to be too stoned arriving at the party.

He leans into the car and gets a piece of chewing gum, something to confuse the smells coming from him. He pops it into his mouth and resists the urge to chew. No sense using up the flavour too quickly.

He sparks the joint and does a pocket check: Front left – spare pack; back left – personal phone; back right – work phone, he wonders why he had felt the need to use the phone’s GPS to get here. He knew the way without it, and if hadn’t been using it, he could be leaving it behind, hidden, in the car. Now he was using an extra pocket; Right front – the open pack of smokes. All there.

He locks the car and, after pulling the open pack out of his pocket, pushes the car keys down to the bottom of his pocket. He studies the pack sitting in his hand. Is he going to want to store the roach in the pack? Or may be smoke a cigarette. “Overthinking it!” He pushes the pack back into the pocket.

He cigar puffs the joint, making sure it is still going and starts off. Walking into the sunset.

A small gust of wind chills him. He looks at his short-sleeve shirt; He had been too optimistic that morning. He regretted … ? remorsed … ??? … remorsefully regretted … yes … remorsefully regretted not having his jacket … and its pockets. The optimistic morning line was guaranteed to bring him a couple of macho-martyr points.

He’s at the courtyard gate. He takes a few more hits on the joint, stubs it out and digs the pack out of his pocket. He pulls out the piece of foil stored in the pack and wraps the roach in it. He realizes that he is chewing the gum industriously. Oh well.

He steps through the gate and heads right towards Eddie’s house.

Eddie steps away from a crowd of strangers. There are more people here than he was expecting.

Eddie has grown a beard. It makes him look a little bit like Hemingway; a dour French Hemingway; and a little older than Hemingway ever was.

“Hey Cree Cree”

It was his thing. Eddie knew he didn’t like nicknames (Christopher, that’s what everyone had called him since ever). He did it half as a sign of affection and the other half as status seeking. Eddie’s need to play testosterone games mystified him. It also flattered him.

“The beard suits you well.”

“I’ve been told it makes me look wiser.”

Christopher keeps the Hemingway thoughts to himself and makes a noise meant to convey his agreement. He has noticed, off to the right, a group of four people that he knows. Relief.

“You’re looking a little tired.”

The weed is showing. Stocking up on high leads to being higher. Shame this isn’t a smoke friendly crowd. “It’s Friday, it has been a long week.”

Eddie takes possession of the cheese and Christopher heads towards the crowd he knows to start his hellos. Later he would watch them interact with the busy kid, thankful it was on their side of the table.

A little later still, the kid was next to him, telling him Eddie was putting on the video and then starting a play-by-play commentary of his serving himself desert. “Is there a cutting knife somewhere? Yes, of course I’m allowed to handles knifes.” While accepting the knife, his hand finds the time to dart out and grab some chips. The kid, Marvin, starts to slice the cake. “I rrreally like the look of the berries, the cake looks delicious, I am cutting myself a slice, I can’t wait to taste it.”

Christopher is lost in the babble. He nods every few seconds and hides his astonishment at seeing Marvin’s hands finding the time to make multiple grabs of chips, nuts and miscellaneous appetizers before the slice of cake makes it to his plate.

He is even more speechless when, while looking for his host to say goodbye to, Marvin starts going on about how the late night was messing up his medication schedule and how he would probably end up doing an all-nighter. Marvin was obviously not the normally active kid that is too busy for the parents. Christopher is in awe of the mother, her ability to stay calm while still keeping Marvin in check.

“Hey Eddie! Great evening. Thanks!”

“I am glad you came. I love having people over.”

“It’s a pleasure. And it reminds me that I need to get out more.”

Christopher felt a little rusty, he had struggled to keep up his half of the conversation. An eavesdropper.

Walking back to the car, he notes that there were two crowds and not much mixing. He could remember only one name, Nicole; She was very close when introducing herself.

He opens he car door and, before getting in, remorsefully regrets not having tried harder to know the strangers.


No Cheek to Turn

The barista notices my book. I had almost left it at home because I didn’t want to attract attention via the language. The reproduction of Tamara de Lempicka‘s Irene and Her Sisters inspires a question. “That’s an interesting drawing. What’s the book called?”

Attracting attention via the cover feels cool. That’s OK.

I admit that I can’t remember its name in English and then turn it around so she can read the title. The conversation stumbles along and we establish that I grew up here and live in France. I take the boundary setting question about children and geolocate them.

The looking-up of old friends is a harsh experience this time. I’m barely getting comfortable with the granddad thing and I learn that Shoeman had a stroke last December. It reminds me that he lost his father young, to a stroke. He’s got to be feeling very mortal; It makes me feel mortal.

I mentioned it to the newly minted mother. She asks if it is how her grandmother passed; I confirm. She wonders if it is hereditary; I say it is. My sense of fragility bleeds out; she senses it and apologizes; I slowly shrug it off.

A day later, the wannabe comic calls. I learn he’s retired. The age-slap stuns me; I am not making the right noises; he repeats it multiple times.

My childhood friends have old-folk’s lives; and I, granddad.