12 Jul

I’m standing in front of the merchandise counter, disoriented, when I see a tall, skinny, colorful person.                                                         

“He’s a harmless drunk,” says the smiling, happy looking guy. “My name is Matt, by the way.” He sticks out his hand, and I shake it.

“Nice to meet you Matt.”

“You’re a good dancer.”

“Um, thanks.”

“And pretty quiet, too.”

“Yeah, I am.” I don’t even try to defend myself anymore. I admit it like admitting I have brown hair.

 He looked so happy, standing there in front of the merchandise table holding an alcoholic beverage. He was definitely tipsy. He hadn’t reached the point yet where he was slobbering or incoherent, though. He was having a good time. His friend was too.

 I was standing there- alone and in the back—engrossed in the music, the room, everything about this unfamiliar place. I wanted to absorb everything. I sometimes get this sensation like I’ll never be in the same place ever again, and I want to just store everything away for later. It was during one of these moments that he arrived.

 The friend of the happy guy was suddenly standing in front of me- I looked at him for about a second. Tall, mid-twenties, black, leather jacket, skinny jeans, swimming eyes and mussed up longish brown hair. I’d seen him before- when we first arrived.

 The first thing I thought when I saw him was that he looked like he belonged in a modern day Grease movie. He was sitting leaned way back, slouched in a chair in front of a small café, a few squares of sidewalk behind me. I couldn’t help but feel like he saw me, like he was looking at me. I felt uncomfortable, the kind of “I feel like someone’s looking right through me” uncomfortable.  We kept making eye contact. Yet we inhabited different planets. A skinny girl in a too short skirt sauntered up to him and sifted herself imbetween his legs as he sat there sipping on some drink with a little straw. She flirted with him as we all stood there waiting. He saw me. I saw him. We’re aware of each other, even though I try to ignore him. During the concert I see him a few times, lingering around in the back- talking to some girl at the bar.

When he showed up, out of no where, with his hand outstretched- sticking into my personal bubble like an foreign object—I don’t know what to do. A few moments pass before I realize what he wants: to dance with me. It was strange, his bad boy look and formal invitation. Yet sometime during those few fuzzy moments I must have forgiven his contradictions and, against my better judgment, put my hand in his.

It’s absolutely ridiculous, I think. Everyone around me will laugh. I stop thinking about myself and all the people who will stare at us. I start dancing with leather jacket guy. He’s twirling me around, spinning me into his arm, waltzing me around on the sticky, black floor like some formal dance partner of his with the sad, melancholy music playing in the background. I’m stepping on his toes like a klutz, or maybe he’s the one being klutzy. I can’t tell. Part of me thinks it’s funny. “So, which of your friends dared you to do this?” I ask.  He doesn’t answer. I can just imagine one of his friends saying, “I dare you to go dance with that girl over there.” I look into his swimming eyes, I smell the alcohol on his breath, and I realize that unlike his friend, he is very drunk. I want to siphon all the alcohol out of his body so we can have a normal conversation. But normal conversation is impossible at this point. It turns into more than I want when he starts messing with my hair. I’m done. I pull away from him. He twirls me one last time. It’s sort of cute, in a drunken kind of way. He then fades off somewhere else, presumably to mess with someone else’s night.


 “So why aren’t you drinking?” Matt asks.

“I don’t drink.”

“Ok, that’s cool, I respect that.”

Matt is moving, twitching almost, like he cannot stand still. He shifts from one foot to another, and at one point, his drink sloshes onto my foot. He’s wearing bright colored high tops, black skinny jeans, and a striped orange and green zip up hoodie. He’s so colorful, and easy to talk to. Immediately I get the sense he’s the kind of guy who will go along with whatever you say, nodding in approval just to keep the conversation going. He’s bubbly, energetic and friendly. I imagine he has plenty of friends.

 “So what have you like got religion or something?”

“Not religion exactly.”

“I used to never drink, never touched a drop of the stuff until I was twenty. I moved to Toronto to be with my girlfriend at the time. She convinced me I wasn’t my father, that I wasn’t an addict like him. He used to knock things around the house, you know. He did cocaine, and it scared me when I was real little, you know—and I never wanted to be like him. She told me I could use because I’d never turn into my father, I wasn’t him.”

It’s amazing what kinds of conversations open up the moment you tell someone you don’t drink. Matt continues.

“She stole my life savings in Toronto, so I moved back here. He’s really the only good friend I’ve got.” He points in the direction of the bar where my former dance partner is leaning up against the counter, talking to someone.

“So I started when I was 20, and I’m 23 now. But for me it’s all about moderation.” He takes a sip from his drink, after offering me some. I decline, again.

“I never wanted to be like my father.” So much in what started out as an innocuous conversation. So much hurt just underneath his colorful surface.

“But I am an addict. Everyone’s an addict in some way or another.” He takes another sip.

I cannot help myself. I imagine Matt as a little boy crouched scared in some corner of the house as his father bangs around high on some drug. I imagine him promising himself he’ll never be like him. The way he said, “I never wanted to be like my dad” haunts me, still. He said it as if it were the first time he realized who and what he had become.


2 Responses to “Orbiting”

  1. Justin July 12, 2009 at 11:22 pm #

    Sometimes I really like your use of similes and analogies, while other times they are in my opinion a little awkward:

    “I admit it like admitting I have brown hair.”
    yes, perfect.

    “sticking into my personal bubble like an foreign object”
    I really like this one too.

    “It registers in my mind like the fact that summer comes after spring and winter after fall. ”
    I think what you mean is once it registered you realized it should have been obvious. But this is an awkward way to communicate it.

    “He was like a mixed metaphor.”
    Strikes me as too roundabout. You’re doing this weird multi-layered thing: a simile that talks about metaphors, just to say that he looks contradictory.

    Similes are your security blanket.

  2. slippedink July 13, 2009 at 2:11 am #

    I didn’t realize I use them so much, but I guess you’re right, I do. And yes, a few are quite awkward, too. Next challenge: write something with no similies.

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