Memorial Day

“We aren’t even there yet and I’m already starting to panic.”

It’s true. My hands are trembling at the steering wheel like someone in the beginning stages of hypothermia. Amy asks me if I want to get high, concerned and caring girl that she is. I shake my head.
“No. I think I can handle it until we get there.”

The aforementioned there is a party at Max and Joy’s apartment. It’s Ashley’s birthday, and it also happens to be Memorial Day weekend. Two birds with one stone, as they say. It promises to be one of the more memorable gatherings for our group of friends, with virtually everybody that we see on a semi-regular basis planning to attend.

Large social gatherings are, as a rule, a major anxiety trigger for me. This one has me in an especially worried state. Combined with my inclinations toward introversion, this could yield disastrous results.

We arrive to find the gathering in full swing. Music straining from tiny speakers, people collected in small groups throughout the yard making small talk, sipping beers or mixed drinks, smoking cigarettes, enjoying the sunshine and the moist, warm air. Almost immediately, my throat clenches.

I know everybody here, but not to a point where I feel comfortable interacting with them for an extended length of time. Fuck, I never know what to say to anybody. Whenever I contribute to a conversation, I’m grasped by the lingering sense that everybody involved secretly thinks I’m an asshole. With enough alcohol, though, I find I no longer care. Alcohol – my in with the rest of humanity. And so, with nervous fervor, I drink one, two, three, four Angry Orchards within the first hour of being there.

I’m beginning to develop a decent buzz. I still stumble through a chat with Max’s father, who lives next door, so I start drinking faster. Max asks if anyone wants to go inside and smoke weed, and I accept the invitation with all the ardor of a grade school kid who knows the answer to a question asked by the teacher, and desperately wants to be called upon. Amy joins us, as well as some fellow whose name I don’t recall.

We pass a small bong around, as well as my personal vaporizer. We take turns sharing stories about going into work still intoxicated from the night before. I recall an instance where I drank half a bottle of Jagermeister before going in for a shift at a local book packing warehouse. As I’m telling the story, I get the suspicion that it sounded much better in my head, and the silence that follows my conclusion of the story only serves to confirm this suspicion. Now I feel as if I’ve just committed some unforgivable social faux-pas. Or worse – I feel as if I’m an intruder. I don’t speak for the remainder of the smoke session.

Outside, the groups have shifted slightly, and more people have arrived. I don’t know what to do, so I take a seat on the grass. I catch drifts of the latest gossip and news. I don’t say a word. What the hell do people normally talk about at parties and why the fuck am I not capable of this? I keep drinking in hopes of overcoming this crippling frustration. So much in fact, that by 6PM, I have to take a mid-party nap in the spare bedroom. I awake about an hour later, still drunk, but no longer stoned. Amy and I pass the vape back and forth before returning to the festivities.

It’s strange, feeling like an outsider among y our own group of friends. It’s a contradiction, one I’m still trying to get my head around. Fuck, I’ve known these people for many years, and I still feel like a pariah in their midst. I’m outside of a glass house in a swarming white blizzard, and none can see me. Inside the house are the people I’ve come to call friends, and the cold is growing all around me. I want more than anything to be inside that warm and well-lit place, to, to be out of this cold which is slowly blackening my hands with frostbite and working its way into my blood, but no matter how loud I shout, nobody hears me. No matter how hard I beat my fists against them, the walls of the glass house don’t break. Not a single one of them will ever know.

Why are you here? Can’t you see that they hate you? See how freely they all mingle with one another, and here you are alone in your own little corner being tossed scraps of interaction whenever one of them is kind enough to take pity on you. You don’t belong here. Face it – you’re an alien, a stranger, and you always will be.

So goeth the interior monologue. I’ve been trapped outside of that glass house for some time now, and there are times when I find that it’s easier to just give in and accept the cold as it breaks through my skin. The moments when I stop struggling.

Those are my happiest moments.

-r. miller

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