I had this dream, see. There was your standard Adventures in Babysitting blond suspense arc populated by single moms, bratty little girls, an anorexic 7-year-old resembling in equal parts Janice from The Muppet Show and that scary, black-eyed alabaster child in The Ring, exploding baby bottles, the dizzy spinning of the Disney teacup ride, pink plastic trinkets, kidnapping, a fat Jared Leto in full confrontation mode, long mahogany tables of family-style resort eating, a broken glass and a makeshift bar in the kitchen run by a backward-speaking Jamaican with purple dreads. I woke up three times, screaming louder with each vertical jut, but every time I collapsed again, the dream continued, going nowhere, louder, faster. This, I thought as the cold sweat met my hot head falling back onto the pillow, isn't a dream at all.
It's the reality that's killing me.
"Babe," David babes into my phone the following evening. "I'm coming to scoop you up."
Against the obvious warnings of the "Caution: Maudlin Ahead" signs self-planted in my darkening psychosphere, I've agreed to a bout with conviviality tonight in celebration of the passing of the worst year of my entire life or the vacuous chasm of that which looms before me. Because you know what's fun? Taking the salt of a perennial miserablist and sprinkling it on the wound of everybody else's Very Special Good Time.
"I don't know if I'm very good company," I reach for the escape hatch, scraping past Morrissey. "Heaven knows I'm miserable now."
"Baaaaabe," David widens his eyes like the cutest dog you never killed. "It's not a party without you."
So here I am at a party, but for me. The cute apartment on the fourth floor of downtown's Post Parkside is veritably dripping in early-30s dress-up sophistication, all prom dresses and half-drunk smiles, couch confabs about screenplay options, infectious optimism and carefully carved bits of angular wit, deviled eggs, liquor and sneaky-sneak-sneaks into a smoke-filled bedroom where the through-the-wall cackles are enough to induce a contact high. I should be having fun, but instead I'm a besuited sandspur stuck to the couch.
"You want to go outside and smoke?" David senses my spiraling.
"Why not?" I cough.
Here's why. Out front, a certain bawdy female impersonator (who is neither bawdy nor impersonating tonight) brushes by with a frown for me. An awkward conversation follows about a column last year in which said entertainer was quoted saying something edgy about possibly having a particular acronymic malady while hosting a benefit to raise funds for curing it. All in good fun, right? Not when you're me.
"My sister read it," he seethes. "She said that with all the other diarrhea this guy writes, nobody could ever possibly get anything out of it anyway. Now go tell that to your friends!"
On our next smokers' descent from crowded prosperity, something fun happens. One of David's friends, in a state of adorably toxic disrepair, has decided in her head of heads to ambush every condo-dwelling passerby with an imposing dog chant, fists a-waving.
"I'm bringing Arsenio back!" she screams in their faces.
"I know," one victim responds, covering his face and following nonsensically with "I dropped the ball."
But it's on our last nicotine sojourn that the ridiculousness meter ticks its way up to "surreal." A panhandler struts up to our semicircle and initiates his act on David. Before he can get a word out, David holds up his hands to stop him.
"I've got nothing," his eyes widen again.
"What do you mean you've got nothing!" the rant accelerates as all but David and I scatter. "All you people in your fancy clothes, with your nice drinks and your cigarettes, just laughing it up out here on the street outside your condo! You mean to tell me …" and at this point he reaches for his back pocket like a mime would if he had an invisible gun.
I, uncharacteristically, bow up. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" I Flo in the least homosexual manner I can muster. "Do you even know who you're talking to or what you're talking about?" The drinks start stirring in my head, splashing out some hubris cobwebs. "Just because we want to have a fucking drink on New Year's and smoke a fucking cigarette doesn't mean that we are somehow opposed to your well-being!" Or something.
He backs up, I reach in my pocket and hand him a twenty, he smiles and says he's sorry. I say, "See," like a bitch, then he takes a sip of my drink and walks away. Happy fucking New Year.
"I think I need to go now," I quickly deflate, not knowing what it is that just happened — only that something did.
Just as we turn to walk toward my house, a pedicab zips by with a rowdy fat couple piled in it. And in a sign that this is indeed Orlando, the man spots us, pushes his woman up, yanks down her jean shorts and slaps her ass while spitting out his own "Happy fucking New Year!" I guess that really happened, too.
The next morning, following another thrill-ride with Leto and his exploding baby bottles, I roll over to text David my apologies.
"I'm sorry I'm such a dick," my fingers rattle. "I'll be better this year."
"Don't worry, babe," babes the reply. "I don't think anybody noticed."firstname.lastname@example.org