I had another factory party last night under the Full Cold Moon. I knew. I was on my guard.
It is ten degrees above normal temperatures here, in the 80s during the day, dropping into the high 60s at night. Last night was very warm and Ili and I had been drinking before we went to the seven o'clock start time. I don't like parties in general, and I especially don't like company parties. Add Ili to the mix and shake.
The thing is, I don't have the proper reactions to things. I'm like a cat in a room full of dogs. I'm sure I look it. The most normal greetings send shock waves to my toes. Something, I know, is bound to happen. I don't just feel this way. I know it from long experience.
How do other people avoid it? They are able to maneuver through what is commonly known as "casual conversation," but for me, every utterance seems loaded. Part of this is because I have cultivated a sort of--well--"character." I am known, I guess, for certain behaviors, and I think people expect me to live up (or down) to them. I can feel their eyeballs on me as I pass through the crowd.
"What will he do? What will he do?"
Like you, I am skeptical about this. I can hear you saying, "Right, you're special. Nobody gives a shit about you, moron. Who do you think you are?" I say that, too.
But it happens, I swear, every single time.
To wit, as we walked into the party, there was a group of people who greeted us right away. Everybody's smiling, so I try to imitate the way they look. I don't know how they do it, really. It feels so hideously unnatural to me. But I turn up the corners of my mouth and squint my eyes just so and begin nodding my head to the rhythm of the conversation, my head turning this way and that to follow the flow of voices. But it seems to me that too many eyes are turned my way. You will say I am paranoid or worse, but I would have to argue. As I walk to the bar, I run into a new crowd. Somebody says something that I don't remember, and I say, "Well, this isn't my first one of the night," and I feel the excited giggle that runs through the group. The bartender has served me at a restaurant I have barely gone to and at this company shindig once a year, but he remembers what I drink and pours it big. Wide eyes smile.
"What the fuck?" I think, feeling pigeonholed and trapped.
A fellow comes up to me and says in a conspiratorial tone, "Kat is coming later," and he laughs. Oh, shit. This is nothing but trouble for me. Of course.
The fellow orders the bartenders to begin making a sweet concoction called a Chocolate Pretzel or some shit that they drink in shots. I tried one a few years ago. It was awful.
"No, thanks," I say, but the fellow is insistent.
"You have to do one with us," he says.
"No I don't. I hate those things. You should only drink those with people whose pants you are trying to get into later."
See. This is what happens. It is too early, I guess. There is a collective noise that comes from the group. "Really?" I think. "I need to go home."
But I haven't been here twenty minutes, so I try to find a corner to slink into. I walk into the kitchen where there is a group of people I don't know chatting with one of the fellows who works in my area. They all turn and say hello.
"Hello," I say.
"You don't know us, but we know you."
I don't know how to respond to that, and stand a bit stupefied, but one of them says quickly, "You're famous."
I'm horrified. I say words and try to turn to the food table. I want to go home.
A bit later, Kat shows up. She makes the beeline to me as I look nervously around the room. Chat chat. I walk to the bar where the fellow ordering the shots has just gotten another round. He yells something at me that sounds like this:
"I couldn't be boss. I'd fire anybody who wouldn't take a shower with me."
Now we're talking, I think, but when I say, "What?" he repeats it. I hear the same thing.
But that isn't what he's saying. Nope. He is chastising me.
"I would fire anybody who wouldn't do a shot with me," I finally hear.
"Oh. . . I thought you said. . . ."
"Fuck no!" he spits. "Jesus Christ, man, look around!"
He's drunk in a way I don't think I ever get. Everybody seems to be. Kat has come over and leans on me. Shit, I think, I have to get out of here. I look for Ili who is chatting with a couple. I can tell that she is drunk, too. I pull on her elbow and nod my head, then turn and try to sneak through the crowd. I stand atop a step and catch her eye and motion with my finger toward the car and head out the gate. Fortunately, she follows.
The party is just getting started.
What happens after that must remain private, but the night has already gone sideways. Still, I am happy to have avoided open conflict in the public arena. I know I'll hear about my early exit later at the factory, but it will be just that and not the other things that might have happened, and I am happy.
I am famous, you see. . . for what, I don't want to know.