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My Friend and Other Friends in a Thin Fictional Disguise

‘Chances are what one remembers.’

— Eve Babitz

1.

Work ended at 8:30; the party started at 8; a DM Rachel sent four hours earlier read ‘Only six minutes away, lol’ when her friend reminded her about the event and shared the address: things worked out in a way they usually did not. So then Rachel went. It was a party in lieu of a wedding that did not happen; her friends (really one friend and his now wife; Rachel had known them both since high school but only really knew him, the one friend) had gotten married informally, between lunch and getting groceries one day, a shock when he told Rachel after the fact; according to their post on Facebook, 39 people were going and 8 were interested; ‘I know you don’t like crowds tho’ he DM’d back, ‘so heads up’, but Rachel was thinking of something like a change; her everyday life had become so routine, like water cutting into rock, forming canyons of her time, so set in stone it was all becoming, that Rachel wasn’t against the idea of some deviation, some other direction that water could flow. And plus the party was so close by (six minutes/lol) that she might as well see what was up with it. Stop by, swing in, say hi, and leave; she had work the next day anyway; and, she’d probably be back home soon enough to make her usual late-dinner-and-light-reading routine. (‘Like I said I'll swing in and say wassup, wanna catch up on some vollmann anyway haha’ was how she conveyed this.) Things were coming together. There was no reason not to go. So she went.

2.

Rachel arrived at 9:01, after sitting in her car for ten minutes. There were already a lot of people in the house. It was her friend’s cousin’s house, as he’d explain later, she’d just gotten the backyard and patio and lights and such set up by the time her friend needed a place to host a party, and so let her friend use the space while she, her friend’s cousin, was away. Another confluence. It didn’t take long for Rachel to find him. He stood tall and he had a big idiot grin, but he knew what Lacan meant when he said I think where I am not, therefore I am where I do not think. I am not whenever I am the plaything of my thought; I think of what I am where I do not think to think. They (Rachel and her friend) read a lot of the same books. He offered Rachel a drink and she declined. There was pizza and pasta and boba at the party. And a box of a dozen mochi-donuts. Everyone—Rachel, her friend, her friend’s wife, everyone—was some shade of Asian American.

They (Rachel and her friend) sat on the couch. Immediately a few more converged. They were all people he, her friend, knew. A buddy from the arcade he frequented, competitive in the local fighting game scene; the other was maybe another cousin. Rachel was introduced by her friend as such: “We’ve known each other since high school.”

Arcade Buddy nodded and looked at Rachel. Rachel didn’t say anything. The party, as is the nature of all good parties, was loud, and Rachel was the only one wearing a mask (double-masked at that, because she liked having the main protective one underneath a pretty aesthetic one, like the one with flowers on it, which she was wearing now) and was self-conscious about raising her voice, calling attention to her mask-wearing. (She just didn't want to get sick, you know?) Instead she nudged her friend on the arm and showed off the book she’d brought in with her: an uncorrected proof copy of a Salman Rushdie novel, signed by the man himself. Rachel worked at a used book store, and, since company policy won’t allow for

selling of any uncorrected proofs or advanced reader’s copy (ARC), signed or no, Rachel was free to just walk out the door with it. Rushdie, for Rachel, was always an author she’d get around to ‘eventually’, even after getting stabbed in the eye, but now he’d been moved up a few spots; feeling the book in her hands, knowing it had passed through his, the book contained the crackling potential energy of a new friend. Already Rachel was itching to leave and start reading right away. Her friend, as she knew he would, was actually impressed and glad she showed the book to him. Then a very large and nice dog approached the couch, as if the dirigeur of a ball, and greeted everyone by licking their face. Rachel liked dogs but pulled way back when the dog attempted to lick her mask. She scratched the dog under the chin as compensation, and the dog appreciated this. Already, as I’ve said, Rachel was itching to leave and start reading right away.

Her friend’s wife noticed Rachel and said hi. They hugged. Rachel gave her congrats and meant it, and then his wife was off.

Rachel looked around and thought about how to position her arms: it wasn’t everyday she wore a sleeveless top and showed off her tattoos; she hardly ever showed off her tattoos. She tried to catch if anyone noticed her and her skulls and insect yokai, but everyone had their own preoccupations: mainly, being present in the moment and with their friends, in that moment. Rachel set the book on a shelf to be retrieved later. (In fact, one other reason she brought it was so she had even more of an excuse to leave early, not wanting such a high-value item—a new friend—to get somehow ruined or spilled on by regular party goings-on.)

Her friend got up and invited Rachel out to the patio. She followed. He explained about the house as mentioned earlier. He pointed out the DJ and the tables and lights, and the open bar with two quickly moving lines. One table was sardine-packed and had their own conversation going. Her friend pointed out his coke dealer, sitting by himself in the corner of the backyard.

Someone approached and they talked and shook hands and then he, the dealer, was by himself again. Clearly there were more than 39 people here, and far more than 8 were interested. Rachel looked at the bar again—one of the bartenders was another mutual acquaintance from high school. Nope, she had no intention of conversing with anyone from those days, her friend (and his wife by lucky extension) being the only exception(s). Upon seeing this mutual acquaintance her desire to leave solidified into action; she patted her friend on the shoulder and again said she wasn’t going to stick around (as we know she mentioned multiple times thru DM) and that she had to (not ‘I want to’) go home. Her friend nodded and said, “All right, cool, just thanks for coming by,” and grinned idiotically again. They split from there; Rachel grabbed her Salman Rushdie from the shelf; petted the dog one more time; passed through a crowd of girls (Rachel’s skin complexion was dark, unlike these other Asian girls, all white like a sorority) with her friend’s wife in the crowd’s center opening gifts and cheering; signed the guest book—‘Fidelity to event!’ - Rachel—a Badiouian reference only her friend would get; and then left, one person staring at Rachel like the stranger she was, not knowing any of these people. She’d spoken to no one else. Rachel was back in the car and on her way home by 9:24, back home with her friends Vollmann and Rushdie by 10:41, her usual evening reading begins at 10:30 sharp!

3.

Me — 05/08/2023 4:25 PM

How was party, next time I'll stick around longer

~idiot~ — 05/08/2023 4:26 PM

That's cool I know you don't like crowds, appreciate you stopping by

Me — 05/08/2023 4:27 PM

Not like I don't like crowds, crowds just do their thing and I do mine It's fun to be in a crowd from time to time

~idiot~ — 05/08/2023 4:28 PM

Party was a fuckin banger tho, everything was way bigger and better than we had hoped or planned

Even the weather turned out way better than expected

Lucky to have friends that went above and beyond

Literally was just gonna be a house roll originally

Me — 05/08/2023 4:31 PM

Yeah sheesh

Shoulda stuck around a bit more than lol; but Vollmann...

Just get married again and I got you

~idiot~ — 05/08/2023 4:38 PM

Haha no worries bro but yeah we could've taken a pic

Divorce party I gotchu

Yeah I don't think it ended til like 4am lol

Me — 05/08/2023 4:42 PM

Christ lol

~idiot~ — 05/08/2023 4:42 PM

Yeah bro we broke out the karaoke and they went ham

Me — 05/08/2023 4:43 PM

I didn't know there'd be karaoke

Never mind, less I know about all parties the better lol

~idiot~ — 05/08/2023 4:43 PM

Haha I don't think that was til like 1am though, you would've had to stay a bit longer people can go for pretty long if you have a coke plug in attendance lmao Ah what is a party really lol just people hanging out, maybe imbibing in their substance(s) of choice

Me — 05/08/2023 4:45 PM

Shoulda stuck around to observe

~idiot~ — 05/08/2023 4:47 PM

Yeah it was a good time, cute girls everywhere, drinks, weed, friends, etc Fuckin people flew down for it which blows my mind

Me — 05/08/2023 4:49 PM

Coulda sold it a lot better first time lol

Jk

~idiot~ — 05/08/2023 4:50 PM

I didn't know it was gonna get that lit lmao

Me — 05/08/2023 4:50 PM

Maybe I'm just not meant for these things

~idiot~ — 05/08/2023 4:50 PM

We're not meant for anything, that's prolly why people party

Me — 05/08/2023 4:51 PM

Lul, good point

Next time, I guess

~idiot~ — 05/08/2023 4:51 PM

Maybe when I get a house lol no way I'd be able to easily throw something like that again All the stars aligned for that shit

Me — 05/08/2023 4:55 PM

Well clearly I missed out lol

~idiot~ — 05/08/2023 4:56 PM

Ah I'm just happy you stopped by at all haha

Stop by the next house roll, it'll be more chill and less party-ish

Me — 05/08/2023 4:57 PM

No I mean I do want to go to more parties since I don't typically do that as my default I'm not gonna lapse into pathetic self pity here, I know what I'm lacking ~idiot~ — 05/08/2023 4:58 PM

Yeah I get it, tough to get out there into weird social situations like that I don't really party that much either

Me — 05/08/2023 4:58 PM

I think I want to get into that more, even just to be there

I think Vollmann is rubbing off in that way

I won't be going to any warzones tho

~idiot~ — 05/08/2023 4:59 PM

Yeah it's good to go out and do shit you're uncomfortable with

Party a good entry point into that

I got my current job through a connect I made at a party

I'm not a big drinker and music at parties are usually lame but I like people and drugs Me — 05/08/2023 5:34 PM

I like watching people lose their minds at both parties n drogas

I like the contrast

~idiot~ — 05/08/2023 5:35 PM

Lol that's rarer than you'd think at least for a normal run of the mill party

Me — 05/08/2023 5:35 PM

You don't have to tell me that

4.

All the stars aligned for that shit/everything was way bigger and better than we had hoped or planned/you would've had to stay a bit longer/that’s rarer than you'd think O, the chances we remember! Rachel tried not to let any fear of missing out move her, like tides. But she had again flowed back into her routine, like a river, and the images flickered in her mind like the light across that water’s surface. The coke and the girls and the karaoke, how she wanted to partake and once again she denied herself; how un-Dionysian of her, how not life-affirming she was, even when/if she wanted to be, which was very much so. She knew what she was lacking, and yet… Here we are.

She so wanted change, like a supplicant toward some transfiguration. Everyday was the same, her job and her books, her friends. But she loved those friends so, Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary and Jane Eyre and so on, not so much for the escape but rather the pursuit of knowing and knowing more, and plus it's just plain fun. Why do we read anything at all? (Big question, I’ll only sketch out a few things here…) To color our mind's walls with new colors, to avoid stagnant yellowing, Time's pale fadings. Because to expand one's language is to expand one's self. And so also just walking somewhere. Even just to a party. You can take a paperback if

you want to. But old habits, like reactionaries, are tough to kill: they stubbornly fight back against better natures. If only Rachel had stuck around! What connects and new non-book friends would she have by now, if she only poked out of her book-shell for a little longer. In bed, she turned these thoughts around, already too smooth like river rocks. She'd been here before. If it wasn't a party, how about a dinner, ice cream after work? It was all the same. She wanted to change, but she couldn’t change, so now so many thought her cold when she was just unsure. (But at her age of almost twenty-eight, isn’t that just sad?) But wherever she went, she had to bring her head with her. Anything to be where she did not have to think! But the conversations, the inanity of the loudness of parties, grated. About careers and car troubles and catching up; the weather; the uninformed opinions (for they did not have as many book-friends as she); the small talk and the BS. And yet you need those things, they make sure that communication remains working and open. And yet she couldn’t help but close every door that opened for her, because she thought the person who opened it as beneath her. And yet she was aware of this as a flaw and hated herself for it too; and to think there are people out there now, people whose faces she slammed doors into, who had the wrong idea about her; but after enough slammed doors, how ‘wrong’ is this image? She hated everyone and especially herself; she wanted to love anyone and especially loved herself too much. Clearly, something went wrong somewhere, she knew this; she was supposed to be elsewhere, living far brighter days, the sun of those days never rising and shining for her, here and now, and in this shadowy pit of her miserable routine she picked at her hatred toward everything, like a scab, like another bad habit. What a shame for Rachel, these contradictions. She felt a fever coming.

5.

It was the weekend; Rachel's routine movie night with her other friends (from university); it was her turn to pick the film and stream it for the others. The theme that week was Jazz: she'd picked a Woody Allen film. But her laptop wouldn't recognize her microphone; she fuddled with the drivers and privacy settings while her friends waited in the voice channel. Thirty minutes late turned into an hour, and then two; her friends hopped off and called it off for the night. Only then did she manage to solve the issue: the mic wasn't properly plugged into the HDMI port. ‘We run it back next week no prob’ her friends assured her in the group chat. Rachel broke the mic against the wall. Another chance.


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