I’m like Thomas Pynchon. People know me by name but no one has really seen me. I’m also not like Thomas Pynchon because there’s no mystery to my invisibility: I hardly ever go out and I let no one in. So, duh. Probably also unlike Thomas Pynchon, I recognise that social isolation causes craziness in sane people and boosts craziness in already insane people. The latter being my case, I sensibly decided that I shall bravely go where I have never gone before and will attend a party to which my acquaintance inexplicably invited me, probably acting in a fit of crazies.
After double-checking that the invite wasn’t a drunk misclick (I’m sure it was, but the party person took pity and assured me of his undying
friendship acquaintance and his being okay with me coming), I dressed up and ventured out. I assumed that my acquaintance, like me, had no friends and that the party wouldn’t be a big deal. Feel free to imagine in unflattering visuals my surprise (like eyes popping out and tongue lolling from the open mouth) when I arrived to find half the village at the spot. I knew next to no one there, so after presenting my strikingly original present of a bottle of wine to the party leader, I sat down next to the nearest random person.
I had asked for water to start with, so I set my plastic cup in front of me and proceeded to introduce myself to my neighbour. The neighbour probably told me his name, which I didn’t forget—because I didn’t even hear it to start with. I wonder whether it’s a sign of egoism that I never listen to people when they’re introducing themselves. If it is indeed the case, consider me sufficiently punished because the longer you’ve known a person, the more awkward it gets to ask their name. My conversation with the random unknown party goer was more than disastrous.
The stranger showed me a wound on his leg, which was bleeding through the bandage. I spontaneously attempted to summon a deity in which I don’t believe (“OMG!”) and inquired what had happened. “It was at work,” he says. “Oh,” I say, more or less successfully feigning interest in the bloody blotch, “what were you doing?” He says, “Working.” I see. I don’t see, of course, but I don’t want to pry. So I try something different: “And what do you do?” He looks at me and says, “Same as everyone else.” Oh. I’m puzzled but choose to assume that I’m doing it wrong.
After a while, the stranger bends over and unties my shoe lace. Somewhat taken aback, I’m waiting for what it’s gonna be. The stranger resumes his seat and does absolutely nothing. So I say, “Okay, that’s it?” He confirms. That explains everything. Not. I tentatively express my disappointment, “You know, I was waiting for a point to it…” He says nothing. After a bit, I go on, “That was a token of affection or an act of hostility?” The former, he says. Instead of yelling, What the fuck are you, four or what?, I practise the Buddhist teachings of acceptance, honour and respect, and say, if somewhat insincerely, “Oh, that’s nice.”
Because I didn’t have the balls to tell the stranger that I was worried that idiocy was infectious, I said, though quite frankly, that I needed a drink and moved on. I didn’t grab a drink until much later and went on carrying around my cup of water, causing many eyebrows to raise. The ultimate havoc I wreaked was however when I politely refused the pot that was being passed around, laughing that I was a bit too grown-up for that crap. I should’ve kept my trap shut. Though I’ve meanwhile become a village legend (the village equivalent of the urban legend) because I genuinely can’t speak the colloquial variant of my mother tongue, which raised major suspicions.
Against my better judgement, I eventually had a few shots, but managed to stay the most sober person around, second only to the dogs and kids present. I recently decided I was too grown-up to get stupid drunk. Shrug. I tried my hand (tongue) at some more conversations. I was the most successful with someone’s mother, who was twice my age and apparently found herself at the party by mistake, like me. I totally killed it (in the bad way) when someone was explaining that they sought to be awarded invalidity pension and I thought they were joking, so I joined in, “Haha, a good one, who’d want a pension, right?” Except they weren’t joking. They thought I was joking when I attempted to explain my view that it takes an exceptional person not to get uselessly wasted away once they’re on pension and don’t have to do anything.
When it got dark, cold and people started slurring beyond comprehension, I took the liberty to leave. I went depressed and despondent. How do I never fit anywhere? Like, it’s probably me, right? How do I literally and figuratively, on all planes, don’t speak the same language as everyone else? And, are there people who do speak my tongue? If so, where the fuck are the suckers hiding? I do wonder what the other party goers’ interpretation of my presence at the party would be. Provided they’d remember anything of it or bothered to care about it in the first place. I’m sure it’d be totally different from mine. I’m stumped.