This week's Fresh Story is the third and final installment of the The Swinger and the Handyman series. A link to the other (2) parts is below:
Aaaaaanndd.... that's about it. Enjoy!
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The Swinger and the Handyman (part 3)
The night got noisier and the karaoke got sloppier and pretty soon I found myself approaching a regrettable level of inebriation. The first couple of people had left the party and I shared wobbly goodbye waves to groups of strangers as they bundled up and egressed out the back door.
‘What you thinking Tam?’
I released a long breath as I leaned up against the kitchen counter. ‘I don’t know,’ I held my beer bottle out in front of me and looked down at it, ‘yeah. I could probably roll out after this one.’
‘Yeah, that’s about where I’m at too. I’m gonna go and say goodbye to Marco and Julianna.’
‘Cool, I’ll be here.’
I stood there, with my ass propped up against the corner of the counter holding my beer close to my chest and feeling the warm drunken haze slowly envelope me. I was staring off into nothing, taking occasional sips of beer, and focusing really hard on not believing that I was as drunk as I actually was. There were huddles of partygoers chatting and laughing at various spots around the kitchen and none of them were acknowledging me. Juliana emerged from the living room and into my periphery. She was wearing a stylish, form-fitting blue dress and as she came towards me, the first thing that I noticed was her legs which were smooth and athletic and really quite nice.
‘Hey,’ she said, as she smiled and slid her arm up under mine and placed her hand on the small of my back. It was the kind of sideways embrace that caused guys to lift up their arm and prop it up along the girl’s shoulders. She had a tight, warm body and I didn’t mind having it close to mine.
‘Hey,’ I said, as I cocked my head back and gave her an unfocused, drunken stare, ‘thanks for having us. This was a really good crew. A really good scene.’
‘Thanks. Yeah, Amanda told me you guys were heading out.’
‘Yeeaah… I think so. I think it’s about that time,’ to which I frowned and shook my head, ‘it’s only going to get sloppier from here.’
She laughed. ‘Aww,’ she said, and she put her other hand on my stomach, ‘I feel like we didn’t even get to hang out.’
I thought about the swinger thing. I wondered if Marco would have to be there too.
‘Well, you know,’ and I waved my beer-wielding hand and motioned toward the rest of the people in the kitchen in a small arc, ‘you were, uh, busy entertaining. It’s cool.’
‘Well,’ she said in a low tone as she leaned up into my neck, to which I instinctively tilted my head over to hear her, ‘I think you should stick around a little bit longer. I think you’d have a really good time.’ She pulled back to give me a squinty-eyed smile that was throbbing with determined sexuality.
Okay, time to switch gears. Time to act even more drunk that I actually am, which really shouldn’t be too hard.
‘Yeah, I would…’ I closed my eyes and raised my eyebrows and let my head go slack on my shoulders. ‘I really, it, it’s really only going to go down hill from here. I’m like, this is like the best that I’m going to get for the rest of the night.’
‘You can crash here,’ she said. ‘We’ve got plenty of space.’
‘I appreciate that, but I think I gotta head out.’ I heaved myself upright off of the counter and let my hand fall down from around her shoulders and held it there just at the small of her back. Her ass was just as tight as her calf muscles. I thought about how it would feel against my palm as I spanked it.
‘Well that’s too bad,’ she said.
‘Yeah, sorry,’ I said as I slid my hand out from behind her and checked my left pocket for my keys, which I knew were there. ‘Okay,’ I said as I raised my beer up in the air in salute, ‘lemme go find Amanda.’
I walked in around the corner to the living room. Amanda was talking to Marco and they were both slowly edging away from each other in the way that people do after they’ve just hugged goodbye and are exchanging their last two or three sentences of departure dialog and confirming future plans, etc. Finally she waved goodbye and started walking toward me and Marco’s gaze followed her and he looked up at me and waved. ‘Bye, thanks,’ I said, as I waved back. I scanned the living room and did a still-handed wave to anyone who made eye contact with me before turning around and following Amanda back through the kitchen.
We grabbed our coats and scarves and tuques from the futon by the back door and layered up. I had about a quarter of my beer left and I figured I’d finish it up within the first few blocks of the walk home and dump the bottle in someone’s recycling. When we stepped out onto the back porch we ran into Saul, Matt and three of Amanda’s other friends; Raquel, Raquel’s boyfriend, Chris, and Alison. They were all huddled in a semi-circle in the corner of the porch smoking cigarettes and passing around a joint. Raquel, Chris, and Alison were just arriving to the party.
‘Heeeyy,’ Amanda said, with a high, surprised pitch to her voice. ‘Oh my gosh, what’re you guys doing here?,’ she said, as she closed in on Alison for a hug.
‘Just got here,’ Raquel said, and she blew out a steady stream of smoke up and to the right, and moved into Amanda for a hug. ‘Hey Alex,’ she said with her chin propped up on Amanda’s shoulder and waved to me with her cigarette hand.
‘Hey, what’s up?’ I waved back from the corner of the porch. ‘You guys missed some pretty outstanding karaoke.’
‘Yeah,’ Amanda said, as she forked her arms out for a hug with Chris, who was on the opposite end of the semi-circle, and looked back over her shoulder at Raquel and Alison, ‘I sang Black Velvet.’
‘Oh my god,’ I said, and I closed my eyes and held my hands out to my sides, ‘it was beautiful. Wasn’t a dry eye in the place.’
Raquel and Alison laughed.
‘Oh man,’ Amanda said, ‘what you guys been up to tonight?’
I walked over to stand next to Amanda just in time to intercept the joint from Chris and turn the semi-circle into a full-circle.
‘It was Chris’s coworker’s birthday tonight, so we went and checked that out,’ Raquel said.
‘Yeah,’ Chris said, ‘my buddy Matt, that I work with, just turned thirty and he had a few people over at his place.’
‘Aw, cool,’ Amanda said, as she reached over and took the joint from me, ‘where was that?’
‘It was over off of Gottingen,’ Raquel said, ‘like a block down from North Street. We just walked up North to get here.’
‘It was like a ten minute walk,’ Chris said.
‘Cool, cool,’ Amanda said as she exhaled.
‘What about you guys?’ Raquel said. ‘You look like you’re about to head out.’
‘Yeah,’ Amanda said, as she thumbed over her shoulder, ‘we were about to hit the road.’
‘Oh,’ said Raquel with a slight wince on her face. She nodded over toward the sliding glass door, ‘how is it in there?’
‘Oh, no,’ said Amanda, ‘it’s a good turnout. They’re still going pretty strong in there. I just gotta open tomorrow.’
‘Yeah,’ Chris said, ‘we were planning out our evening and we figured this would be going pretty strong into the night so we went and knocked out Matt’s party first.’
We watched in silence as Matt (Amanda’s ex-boyfriend. Not Chris’s coworker) pinched the last bit of the joint between his fingers and took a couple of quick puffs before grabbing the ceramic ashtray and snuffing it out.
Saul stood there with his hands in his pockets and his shoulders stiffly pulled up and in toward his chest. ‘Brrr,’ he said, ‘I gotta get back inside.’
‘Yeah, that’s a good idea,’ said Matt, whose upper body was curved over in a similar position.
‘See you guys inside,’ Saul said as he and Matt shuffled diagonally across the circle and each gave me a handshake and Amanda a hug before sliding in through the back door.
‘Aw, well, sorry I missed you guys,’ Amanda said as Raquel put out her cigarette in the ashtray.
‘Yeah, sorry,’ said Raquel, ‘we tried to get here sooner.’
‘No worries,’ Amanda said, ‘you guys still going to Nocturne?’
‘Oh yeah,’ Chris smiled and belted out.
‘When is that again?’ asked Alison.
‘Uh,’ Raquel said as she looked over to Amanda for confirmation, ‘I think it’s on my birthday this year, right?’
‘Yeah,’ Amanda said. ‘The thirteenth, next Saturday.’
‘Cool,’ said Alison. Then there was a brief silence.
‘Alright,’ Amanda said, as she took her hand out of her coat pocket and waved to them, ‘well have fun, you guys,’ and we started to slowly back up toward the steps as they started side-stepping in the direction of the door.
‘Bye,’ the three of them sang out in almost-unison as they waved and Alison slid open the door.
‘Bye,’ said Amanda.
‘See ya,’ I said, as I waved above Amanda’s head.
We went down the steps and cut left along the side of the house, towards the street. I emptied my bottle, bottoms-up, and plinked it into the recycle bin.
‘Sooo,’ I said as I was walking along the side of the house.
‘So,’ and I paused for a minute, ‘I kind of uh, I don’t know, I kinda feel like I got my second party wind.’
‘Yeah,’ I said, ‘coming outside kind of sobered me up a little bit, I guess. I think I still have some partying left in me.’
‘What?’ she said, as she turned around to face me in the front yard, ‘you should totally stay then!’
‘You sure?’ I said. ‘It’s not going to be totally weird that I’m sticking around at your friend’s party without you?’
‘You kidding me, Tam?,’ She said as she scrunched her face in disbelief, ‘of course not! All my friends like you. I’d stick around too if I didn’t have to work in the morning.’
‘Yeah, that’s a bummer,’ I said. ‘What time is it?’
‘It’s only like eleven thirty.’
I checked my phone; it was 11:41. I looked down and puffed out my cheeks as I exhaled.
‘Alright,’ I said, and I turned and looked up at the house then back toward Amanda. ‘Yeah, I think I might head back in and have one or two more drinks and get nice and sloshed up before I go to bed.’
‘You definitely should,’ she said, with a smile on her face like she was genuinely happy for me to be hanging out with her friends.
‘Alright, cool,’ I said, as I came in for a diagonal hug. ‘Let me know when you get home?’
‘Hey,’ she said, as we were backing away from each other, ‘stay sweet,’ and she rubbed the fingertips of her free hand together like she was sprinkling sugar on the ground.
‘Stay sweet,’ I called back to her as I repeated the motion.
I walked back up along the side of the house. I paused on the back porch to take in a brief moment of solitude before throwing myself back into the party. If I still smoked, I would have lit up a cigarette right now.
I entered in through the backdoor and looked around, but I didn’t see Team Raquel in the kitchen. They must have gone in straight for the karaoke. I kept my coat on and wandered over to the fridge to grab a beer. The IPAs were all gone so I grabbed some random can of beer that I didn’t recognize and was too drunk to read the label of. I opened it up and rocked the tab back and forth until it broke off. I leaned up against the counter and scanned the room for any social huddle that I could join in on. This did not seem like the party that I left. There was a staleness to the air and I felt like a stranger that was neither wanted nor unwanted here. I propped up against the counter and drank the beer and thought about why I had come back inside.
‘Alex,’ came an enthusiastic female voice from across the room. Juliana scurried over from the entranceway to the living room.
‘I thought you were leaving.’
‘Well, I was then I--’
‘What made you come back?’ she said as she tucked her arm into mine and started leading me back toward the back entrance.
‘Uh, well I, we ran into Raquel and them outside when we were leav--’
‘Yeah but, uh…’ She started rubbing my bicep with her free hand as she continued to lead me away from the kitchen, ‘but what made you come back?’ She bit her lip and looked up at me with a contained smile like we were in on a secret together.
‘Well,’ I said, as I raised my eyebrows and looked down into nothing, ‘I guess I just got my second wind.’
‘Well,’ she said, as she leaned into me and started sliding her hand down the small of my back, ‘I’m glad you did. I think you’ll be glad you came back.’ Then, as if to punctuate that statement, she quickly slid her hand further down and gave my right ass cheek a firm squeeze.
‘Oh my,’ I said, and took another sip of beer.
She let out a quick giggle. ‘I’ll catch up with you later,’ she said, and turned and walked back toward the kitchen.
Well that was it, then. By returning to this party I had made a soft commitment to sleep with a married woman under God-knows-what conditions that may or may not include the presence of another man, either actively or passively. I mean, I’d been in a dry spell since I’d gotten to Halifax, but was I really that hard up? Would I have slept with her if she wasn’t married? Probably. Would I have dated her? Probably not.
I thought about all of this and I thought about Amanda and about Edith. I took another sip of my beer, placed it on the bookshelf next to the futon, and walked out of the back door and into the cool saltiness of the Halifax evening.