PAINT THINNER, ARNOLD, AND THE HULK
"Fuck," I say, pointing at a small purple Neon with a front license plate that says "Eve." I wasn't expecting to see Eve here. I wasn't expecting to see her at all after we stopped dating. Lucinda, in my passenger seat, really has no idea why I say it, or what the "fuck" refers to, even. She nevertheless agrees, thinking that what I am pointing at, what is distressing me, is the fifty or so cars on Violet's front lawn.
"This is going to be a hell of a birthday party," she says.
She has dressed up more than usual because she thinks I want to invoke some sort of jealousy in my ex-girlfriends who will be in attendance at Violet's birthday party, like Violet herself.
I park my Olds and go inside. Violet's kitchen has been congested by a hundred people all clamoring for the bottles of vodka and whisky spread out on the counter. Violet has just turned 21, and has taken advantage of her new alcohol-purchasing right. This is necessary only because no one else at the party shares this right.
"You want something to drink?" Lucinda asks.
"Yeah, put a couple of shots of vodka in a glass and fill the rest up with RC," I say. Lucinda walks off purposefully into the crowd of people, elbowing her way to the alcohol.
I stand in the little woodfloored foyer of Violet's house wondering two things: 1) Where is Violet? and 2) How can I avoid running into Eve? I consider going to the basement of the house, where—it's clear from the sounds of talking and music—there are just as many people as there are upstairs, to look for Violet and wish her a happy birthday and so on, but I don't want to walk away while Lucinda is fixing my drink, and I don't want to risk running into Eve.
While I'm thinking all of this, Violet walks upstairs drinking from a bottle of champagne. She has a plastic silver tiara resting in her black hair, "Isaiah!" she says, "You finally made it."
"Are we late?" I don't have a watch, but I glance down at my wrist anyway.
"Shit, I don't know," Violet says, and then starts laughing. She's clearly well on her way to being shitfaced.
"Hey, I saw Eve's car out there, why is she here?" Violet can't stand Eve, mostly because she hates the idea of my brief relationship with Eve following my relationship with her.
"Yeah, I think she's here." She didn't answer my question.
"You didn't answer my question. Why is she here?"
"Shit, I don't know," Violet says, "I think she came with someone else, or something."
"Oh, okay." Violet walks off yelling, "Who wants to give me a cigarette?"
When she walks off, Lucinda comes back and hands me my drink. I take a sip to see if she mixed it right. While I'm doing so, she asks, "You asked for a couple shots, how much would that be?" The drink tastes like paint thinner.
"A lot less than what you think it is," I say.
"Sorry. Hey, what was Violet talking to you about?" she sneers Violet's name like she was invoking the name of some serial killer or some disease. Like, "What was lymphoma talking to you about?"
I tell her that I had seen Eve's car out there, and that I was asking why she had decided to come to Violet's party.
"Oh, you mean the chick that looks like a man?"
"What?" I laugh, "You think she looks like a man?" Eve, I had always thought, looked quite effeminate. I take another sip of the paint thinner and grimace.
"Yeah. The next time you see her, look at her jaw. It's a man's jaw."
"Ummm, okay then, I guess we're talking about the same person. So, yeah, she's here. I was just asking why she's here."
"She's probably just stalking you."
Something in me decides that this comment necessitates my drinking more paint thinner.
When it gets to midnight the party has eroded away into a few pockets of conversation. I keep looking out across the basement and hearing pieces of conversations from other little groups. From one group of women that looks like a collection of models, I hear, "I fucking hate shopping for clothes with Deanna because she makes me feel so fucking fat and ugly."
Another group of people is circled around this one bearded guy with a toboggan pleading with him, "Hey man, please go roll us a joint."
A third group is talking about God. A short, husky red-haired man says, "Nietzsche says that God is dead, and we killed him."
The pocket of people I am in centers around Violet and Lucinda and a few other people trying to get me to say any absurd, drunken thing that'll make them laugh.
Ten or fifteen people are sitting on the floor of Violet's basement around me listening to me. Some are amused, most are scowling at me as if asking Why the fuck am I listening to this wanker? Violet keeps insisting that I continue, and it's her party, so I feel like I have to keep talking.
I have already given my entire lecture on the inevitably of shitting, and the one on the epistemology of Foghorn Leghorn. Now Violet is trying to get me to tell some of the stories that I've written, particularly the one loosely based on Eve where she burns me with a cigarette as a method of dumping me.
I haven't yet seen Eve at the party, and I've had about three more of Lucinda's paint thinner cocktails, so I decide that it's probably safe to tell this story, especially if I keep emphasizing that it didn't actually happen. I stand up and ask Lucinda if she'll go make me one more cocktail. Then I tell the whole story, frequently slurring whole sentences together into one word and losing my train of thought. Like when Lucinda returned with my drink, it took me several seconds of stammering before I remembered where I had left off.
At the end of the story, I get to the point of the story where I sorta call Eve a "crazy bitch" and glance into the corner of Violet's basement and see this blonde chick with an effeminately masculine jaw. Eve has been standing in the corner listening to me since right after I started telling the story and one of her friends went to tell her that I was talking about her.
She just stares at me with this cold, emotionless expression as if deciding how to react to me. Her hand keeps flipping her hair back and forth. I keep standing there, not sure if I should apologize or what. After a handful of pretty intense seconds, Eve just turns and walks up the stairs without saying anything.
I sip a little bit more paint thinner and decide to follow her, but Violet stops me, "Hey, we're about to have a hypnotist show."
"Yeah, my mom hired a hypnotist. We're all supposed to go into there," she points at the storage room in her basement.
"Well, I think I should go follow her and apologize," I say.
"No, you're supposed to be one of the volunteers. You can't miss it. My mom will be pissed."
"Why does your mom care if I'm a volunteer in this stupid show? Plus, I never fucking volunteered for anything. When did all this shit get decided?"
"Well, I just thought that you'd do it since you're drunk."
"Yeah, well, I'm not gonna." I start making my way up the stairs to find Eve, but some guy who I'm pretty sure is Arnold Schwarzenegger grabs me and shoves me into the storage room.
In the storage room, Violet's mom has set up about fifty folding chairs and a small stage with a red velvet curtain suspended by some white plastic pipes. Arnold goes up to the stage and says, "I need all the volunteers to come up to the stage now. You know who you are."
Violet has handpicked the most animated drunks to be the volunteers for the little hypnotist show in her basement. All of them I have seen at the party, but none of them I know.
We all walk up to the stage in a group. I look around at the other "volunteers" and see looks of resignation on their faces, like martyrs. Arnold starts giving us his instructions privately behind the curtain. He says, "Okay, now here is what I need you to do," and from there he starts speaking in German.
As seriously and professionally as Arnold proceeds, none of us can understand a word that he says. I look around at the other "volunteers" and notice that none of them seem as unnerved by this method of instruction as I do, they've all resolved to stick it through. This continues for a few minutes before I start to get angry at Arnold. I mean, I'm a little drunk, I'm doing something I don't want to, I just pissed off one of the only people I respect, I don't know what's going on, and Arnold Schwarzenegger has the audacity to stand in front of me and give me instructions in some language I don't even know. Truth is, I'm a little afraid of what'll happen if I suddenly turn into a giant green man.
Eventually, I can't take it anymore and I start screaming, "Fuck you, you goddamn motherfucker! Who the fuck do you think you are?" I burst through the curtain and jump down onto the floor.
I start running toward the door to the storage room so I can finally find Eve.
Violet's mom has her boyfriend, Ed, stand up to try to stop me. Ed's a big guy, I'll admit. For some reason, maybe my drunkenness or my dignity, or knowing that I can't keep both of them forever, he doesn't frighten me.
Rather than try to grab me or hold me back, he takes a swing at my head. "No, it's not happening like that," I say, then grab the nearest empty folding chair. I fold it flat and slam it into Ed's head so fast that he can't react. "That's what you get for messing with the Hulk!" I say and run out the room.
I find Eve lying on the couch in Violet's foyer. She is staring out the back window of Violet's house with the same emotionless face she had before. I sit down on the floor opposite her and say, "Listen, I just wanted to apologize to you for telling that story and all of that shit . . ."
"You're a fuckface," she says, glancing over at me.
"Yeah, you're probably right. But I just wanted to apologize for the shit I said tonight and for everything that's happened between us."
"I hate you."
"I know. But I'm trying to apologize to you for all that shit."
She shakes her head and looks away with this small sort of ironic laugh, "You know, I really wanted you to be my boyfriend."
"No you didn't," I say, "That's what I wanted to be."
"Oh, I guess you're right."
Before I can reply, Arnold walks up the stairs, picks me up off the floor, and throws me over his shoulder. As he's carrying me out Violet's front door, I say to Eve, "I'll call you and maybe we can talk about this."
"I hope he kills you."
Arnold throws me on the front lawn between two parked cars, "What's your problem?"
"Are you kicking me out?"
"You ruined my hypnotism show."
"I'm drunk as hell, Eve wants you to kill me, I ruined Violet's party, and I don't know where Lucinda is. Now I have to go home."
Arnold sits down on the front step and starts rubbing his hands together. "You don't have to go, I'm just making sure you don't cause any more trouble."
"How's Ed?" I ask. Arnold pulls a pack of cigarettes out of his pocket.
"The man you hit with the chair?" He pulls a cigarette out and lifts it to his mouth.
"Unconscious," He lights the cigarette, "but he'll probably be fine."
The grass is now covered in dew and my butt is getting wet, so I stand and lean against one of the cars.
"You know," Arnold says, "when I have trouble with women, I try not to go to the same parties that they do."
"Yeah, thanks, that helps me a lot now." He just stares at me, puffing on his cigarette. I'm right, it doesn't help me, but Arnold's right too. I never shoulda came here. Eve never shoulda came here. I never shoulda started drinking tonight. I never shoulda let Violet convince me to tell that story. I never shoulda hit someone in the face with a chair. It's true, I realize, but it doesn't change anything.
My face assumes the same look of resignation the other volunteers had earlier. Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn't know about this realization. He's still watching me, making sure I don't cause any more trouble.
about the author
Let's see, Simon is, in no particular order, a musician in the bands, The Pitiful Jupiters and The Alecks, a writer, and a Philosophy major at Indiana University Southeast.