The volume went up as the Guest of Honor stepped into the party. Then the lights went down. Scarves found their way to the banisters. Layers found their way to the floor. Buttons were undone. Belts were unbuckled. The Guest of Honor peered into the coat room. His was the coat that made the pile spill to the floor.
When he ambled down the hall, heads peered up. People watched from their blind spots. Arms uncrossed. Footing shift. The guests repositioned themselves to stand full front to him. Their guards went down. Heads began to nod. Eyes began tracking movement. The guests started to promenade from social click to social click. Everybody was open for business.
When the Guest of Honor entered the kitchen, the bar finally opened up. With the tilt of a shot glass the party had gone from a gathering to a rager. He was the weight that helped it reach its tipping point. Arriving after the Guest of Honor, you were no longer fashionably late. You were just late.
Guests stood as he stepped out onto the porch. Private conversations went public. The gusting wind yielded to the sound of laughter. New arrivals looked up from the sidewalk. Their faces lit up at the sight of him. Thumbs scrolled through touch screens. Flashes went off. He slid his arm behind the other guests’ backs. He rest his chin on their shoulders.
The Guest of Honor didn’t need to eavesdrop to slip into conversations. He just had something to say and everyone leaned in to listen. He was engaging parts of their minds they thought had gone dormant. He was bringing things out of them they had long forgotten. He was not the center of attention but a conduit for an open dialogue. People were sharing, learning new things about their life long friends. He invited comedians to try out their untested material, and if it fell flat, he would still laugh. He invited the down trodden to vent, and if no one related to them, he would.
Some parties have a spirit. This one had a delegate, a representative ushering in the evening. He belonged there. He personified the night.
When he gathered his coat up off the floor, the others were right behind him. When he went to say his goodbyes, the guests clogged the entryway. It was a happening in and of itself. People who usually shook hands gave hugs. Everyone remembered to tell him about their gallery opening, their show, their CD release party. Everyone had portfolios to send him, links to share and business cards to give. Numbers were dialed, friend requests were sent, dates were added to calendars. When the Guest of Honor left the night left with him.
The lights went up as the Guest of Honor stepped into the next party. Heads turned at the squeak of his sneakers, at the jangling of the keys from his belt. Coed wrestlers froze as he passed their couch. They untangled their pretzeled limbs. Their smiles flat lined. They buttoned up their shirts and buckled their belts. They had found their shame. Drinks were claimed off the floor. They found their ways back onto coasters.
A young buck lift the lampshade from his brow to reveal the hatchet face beneath. He leered at the Guest of Honor. That’s an understatement. He hate-fucked him with his eyes.
The Guest of Honor hugged the wall as he made his way around the perimeter. He stole away to the coat room. When he threw his coat onto the bed the pile shook beneath it.
A gravely voice said, “Do you mind, mate?”
A pair of sweat drenched faces emerged from the fabric.
The Guest of Honor stumbled down the hall. He was greeted by eye rollers and chin raisers, by lip biters and somber eyed smilers. Some avoided eye contact entirely. For them he was a sunspot traveling through their field of vision. The instant he neared, their phone demanded their attention.
Feeling bold, he approached a girl. He said, “So where are the drinks around here?”
“I’m fine.” She said as she folded her arms across her chest.
His stories were met with, “I guess you just had to be there.”
His pitches were met with, “Good luck with that.”
His jokes did not get laughs. They got long nods. They say comedy is one part tragedy and one part timing. The Guest of Honor was tragically out of time. He was out of sync the frequency of this party.
He looked to his watch for an escape route. He muttered an obligation to some imaginary alibi. He conveyed this urgency to no one in particular. Then he left without saying goodbye. He was a phantom that disappeared before anyone had time to comprehend him. He did not make waves. He did not leave an impression.
He sighed before stepping through the next entryway. For him, each threshold was a portal to another dimension, an alternative universe. In one dimension he was charming. In one dimension he was an asshole. He was never one in the same.
He’d step through a door and dancers would grind up on him. The beat would ride until the cops shut the place down. He’d step through a door and the guests would turn, cup their hands and whisper. He’d step through a door only to be hurried to the hot tubs. He’d step through a door only to be greeted with fisticuffs.
The variables always changed. They seemed to shift at random. The Guest of Honor was the only constant. He was forever damned to get a different reaction with each new location. Consistency was a luxury the universe could not afford him. He was a man without a dimension, a traveling party crasher, a black listed VIP. A man of the multiverse.
The Guest of Honor paused at the foot of another set of steps. He spat the aftertaste of the last party from his mouth. He shook it from his hands, kicked it from his feet and rolled his head from side to side. He took a deep breath. The night air stung his throat. It chilled his lungs. He stepped up to the entryway. His palm hovered over the door nob. He closed his eyes as it turned, exhaled as the door fell inward. He froze. The vortex was waiting to swallow him up. It was a bottomless grab bag. A universe of infinite possibilities.
The Guest of Honor muttered a prayer to himself, “Please be one of the good ones.”
Then he stepped over the line, through a hole in space and time.