The headache was split by the early morning light slicing through the cracks of the bedroom curtains, the payback for over indulgence the night before.
Simon rolled to a sitting position on the edge of the bed, and waited for the resulting wave of nausea to pass. After a few minutes his body calmed once more, His head drooped and started. He had fallen into a half sleep while perched there, head in hands.
The night before: Dan's party. It's memory, vague, cloudy, uneasy, came in slow flashes. It started clearly, and quickly went blurry, as Dan's parties always do.
He arrived a little late, but perfectly timed. Simon was very precise about his fashionable lateness. There needed to be a certain amount of people there, in his opinion, to even feel like he was coming to a party. Arrive too soon, and it felt like he was throwing the party. The host would still be setting up, and he'd feel obliged to help. Come too late, and it felt like everyone was already one story deep into the evening. He would have more then just drinks to catch up on.
Arrive on time, as he saw it, and there were just enough signs of life. People were well into their first drink and beginning to loosen. Laughter comes easily, the volume of chatter is on the rise - people are well past that stage of low talking, uncomfortable by the ratio between size of the room and number of people.
Simon came in at this proper moment, said some hellos, clapped his hand on a few backs, kissed a cheek or two, as he made his way to the bar. Catching up with the first drink was his priority, though. True hellos could wait.
Dan's bar was set up in the dining room of the old apartment, tucked into the built-in buffet. Simon threaded his way hear, from the front hall, through the living room and around the table. Here he found Dan, mid-pour, chatting with a young woman Simon didn't know.
"Simon! Hey, guy!"
"Hey sir, how 'bout a whiskey," as he took his friend's hand in firm and overly proper handshake. "Sounds like you've got that album I gave playing."
"It's a great album, I've had it on continuous rotation in my car. Right, introductions. So, this is Anna. Anna, my friend Simon."
She smiled a crooked smile on an otherwise pretty face. There was a hint of imperfection that Simon liked. She shook his hand, softly, and said hello in a quiet way. They made small talk while he took glass into his hand.
The First Drink.
Dan drifted off to talk to other people arriving, leaving Simon and Anna to chat. Their conversation was light, but with just enough substance to tell him that he would be interested in seeing her outside of the party. He could tell she was interested in him as well: there were the tell-tale signs of touching her hair, and occasional small, smiling, shy glances away, when he would slip a compliment into the conversation.
They talked like this for as long as it took for him to sip his way through this first drink. He pored himself a second over some fresh ice, as well as one or two for newcomers to the bar.
The Second Drink.
Not wanting to spend all his time at the bar, he and Anna made their way back into the living room. The room was crowded now, with friends of Dan's standing, drinks in hands, enjoying the evening. THe music had rotated off to another album, one with some afro-cuban beats. Conversation groups had formed, centered around one story-teller or another.
One was centered around Jeff, telling one of his sweeping tales of almost-conquest. He was gesturing wildly, as his story was approaching it's climax, assuredly one that involved him making either an oblivious miss, or a complete ass of himself.
Another group was intently listening to Even and Sarah, each sharing a sentence about a recent trip to Mexico. They were in the middle of a Couple story, told in a Couple fashion. It was a duet, each having an alternating lyric about the food, the margaritas or the hotel on the beach.
Among the rest, there were small pairs making small talk, looking uncomfortable, or catching up with friends who had just come in the door. Those looking uncomfortable either didn't know anyone here other than the significant others, and those catching up with friends were the significant others, who knew most everyone.
As they wandered through the room, to find a place to sit, Simon had already finished off his whiskey. He excused himself to grab another drink, and offered to get her one.
The Third Drink.
On his way back to the bar, he ran into Phil. Phil was an college friend of he and Dan. He always wore an expression that said, "I'm down on my luck." Yet, Phil had a great job, a great car, great apartment, and wasn't bad looking.
It was standard party Phil: downbeat and resolved to fail.
"Having fun, Phil? You know, I saw that Dan invited a few of the ladies from his office. You should see Dan'll introduce you."
"Really, I don't know. I saw them, they look quite out of my league. I think Dan mentioned they're from the marketing department or something..."
Simon filled his glass while Phil went on about his theory of marketing people. In Phil's eyes marketing people, being in a way sales people with a larger audience, were attractive, outgoing, self-assured. Phil, also in his own eyes, was none of these things. This was why, he concluded, he couldn't approach one of these woman.
Phil had a theory for every class of woman as to why she wouldn't date him.
Simon quickly empty his glass.
The Fourth and Fifth Drinks.
Simon, filled his glass again, and then made the promised Drink for Anna. He made sure to add a splash more vodka, and two cherries.
"I've got to go, pal. Waiter duties."
Holding the drinks up high, in order to safely navigate the increasingly crowded room, he made his way back to the living room. People kept coming. Dan's new girlfriend must have invited her whole circle, as well. Dan had said something about a worlds-colliding party.
He was half-way through the crowded living room when he saw Julia. Simon stopped and stared for a moment. She was standing near the hall door, bottle of beer in hand, chatting with another woman and couple. She was playing with the bottle cap, twisting it on and off again, like she always did. She was smiling, and saying something which got a small laugh from the little group.
Finishing off the whiskey, he made his way over to the Doorway.
"Hey Julia," he smiled warmly.
"Simon," the smile vanishing from her lips. "Um, how are you?"
"Good, good," his smile turning into more of a grin.
The rest of the small group around her looked uncomfortable and excused themselves, mumbling something about saying "hi" to someone or other.
"I always thought you were a whisky man," pointing out the vodka-tonic in his hand.
He stared at it dumbly for a moment, and then sipped it.
"You know me, always branching out," the grin now fixed to his face.
"That's you alright, 'branching out'. Look, I'm going to go catch up with my friends."
With that, she pushed past him, and slipped in crowded room. He was left by the hall door with the vodka-tonic, the two cherries sinking to the bottom through the melting ice. They came back up to the top and kissed his lips as he quickly finished the glass.
Simon pushed back through the party crowd to the dining room. The music was loud and pulsing now. People were laughing, and the story-telling was getting more inventive, more exuberant, more intense. Someone had switched on the colored light that Simon remembered from Dan's college dorm room. It spun and splashed bits of red,blue and gold over the faces.
He found a cluster of wine bottles open on the bar, brought by guests in lieu of an cover charge. He grabbed on half full, and couple of plastic cups and made his way back to the living room. He found Anna over by the office nook, chatting with another couple.
"Hey, I brought that drink," holding up the bottle and the cups.
"Got one, thanks," displaying the beer bottle in her hand.
He poured himself some wine and took a long drink. He stood there while as Anna and company tried to pick up their conversation back up. A few awkward glances Simons way.
"So Anne, you're in marketing right," Simon interjected.
"Ah, yeah, that's what I said."
"My buddy's got this theory about marketing girls," and he began to rattle off Phil's theory. He was doing his best to had as much color and flourish to the Theory of Marketing Girls as he could. All the while he was stepping in closer to Anna. Every couple of sentences, he'd take a long drink out of his cup, and then pour a little more into.
When he had wrapped up the story, he noticed Julia out of the corner of his eye, looking his way. He took another long drink, and then leaned in really close to Anna.
"We should get out of here."
"Absolutely," leering just a little too much as he said it, his eyes not as fixed on her face as the rest of her.
"Ah, no thanks."
With a bit of a disgusted look, she pushed past him into the crowd.
"Fuck her," he said too loudly to be considered under his breath.
He poured the rest of the bottle into his glass and gulped it down.
Too Many More.
The evening took turned even more blurry at that point. He had, at some point, returned to the bar. He found the whiskey gone, but a new bottle of vodka to be mixed with too-small splashes of tonic.
Simon's memory slipped here into flashes of stumbling, rude propositions of any girl between conversations. His cloudy memory held images of him shouting over the crowd at Julia as she left the party.
It was a usual Sunday morning, following on from a standard half-remembered Sunday night. Sleep was heavy, restless, and lonely.