On the night of the party, our apartment was jammed with people. They were hanging off the balcony. I counted eight people in my bedroom, at one point. The party overflowed into the parking spots behind the lawyer’s office.
Luckily, because of our location, we weren’t going to disturb anybody. The bakery was closed, as was the carpet store on the other side of us.
Ray and Karen did drop by, early on. They had a beer with me, said hello to my roommates, and then headed off to another party.
Eli was a hoot. He had strapped an Atari game system to his chest, and had wires wrapped around himself. He was also wearing stereo headphones.
– “What are you supposed to be?” asked Laurie.
– “A lie detector.” said Eli.
– “Oh, brother.” she said.
– “Here, try it.” he said. He passed her the loose connection from his headphones. “Let me ask you: is this not the most original costume idea you’ve seen tonight?”
Laurie had to laugh. “Alright – I’ll give you that one.”
– “She speaks the truth.” said Eli.
“I think she likes me.” he said, once she had gone.
– “You’re an idiot.” I told him.
– “False.” he said.
I helped Rose serve some of her snacks. On one of my runs through the kitchen, threading my way through the people stacked two deep in the hallway, I ran into Laurie again.
– “Joe!” She grabbed my arm. “Do you remember my friend Barbara?”
Next to her was a girl dressed as a very sexy vampire. I did remember meeting Barbara, at the last Christmas party. I thought she was pretty then, but tonight she looked … stunning. She wore a black wig – the contrast with her light grey eyes was outstanding. Barbara was also showing a bit of cleavage (common today, but quite naughty back in the day).
– “I do. How are you, Barbara? You look … amazing.”
– “Thank you.” she said. “You look great, too.”
I was dressed as a pirate – nothing special. Laurie grinned at me, and then slipped away.
– “Where did you get your costume?” I asked. “It’s fantastic.”
Barbara grinned. “Glad you like it. I made it myself.”
– “You’re kidding.”
– “No. I wanted something … special.”
– “Mission accomplished.” I said.
She grinned again. “You’re sweet.”
– “Hmm … I’ll bet you’re much sweeter.” I said. After a few beers, I lose whatever shyness I have left – and most of my inhibitions. Fortunately, Barbara was in a receptive mood.
I don’t know who was flipping records in the living room – Ronnie, maybe – but The Pretenders’ “Precious” came on. Everybody knew it. The kitchen suddenly became a dance floor, with everyone gyrating aggressively. Barbara put out one hand, to steady herself – it landed on my hip.
She left it there.
I returned the favor, and we began to sway together. Everybody knew the lyrics, and shouted them in unison: “Trapped in a world that they never made … But not me, baby – I’m too precious … fuck off …”
Barbara and I were grinning at each other. When the song ended, I fought my way to the fridge, and got myself another beer, and a wine cooler for Barbara.
– “Want to go downstairs?” I asked her.
We worked our way down the stairs, which were packed with people. It was considerably cooler – and quieter – outside. Barbara smiled, and said: “Much better.”
Barbara worked in a record store. I asked her about it, and she told me about the highs and lows. Then we got into a discussion about the latest groups.
It was effortless, and quite wonderful. Barbara was a beautiful woman, dressed in a sexy costume. But more important, at that moment – she was easy to talk to. Our conversation was a give and take between equals, and I found most everything she said interesting.
I registered the difference at the time, and certainly thought about it later. Time flew by. It seemed like only a few minutes later when Barbara’s friend Rina came looking for her.
– “Barb? We have to go.”
Barbara smiled at me. “I’m sorry. I wish I could stay later. I’ve really enjoyed talking to you. And dancing.”
– “So have I.” I told her. “I hope I’ll see you again.”
– “Me too.” she said.
After she left with her friend, I went back upstairs. It was already past 1:00. The party was still hopping. I helped Rose pick up dishes, and even managed to create enough space in the kitchen to wash a few of them.
Eli found me, and started one of the weirder conversations I’ve ever had. I pitched a towel at his head. He managed to dry dishes while spouting the most frightful nonsense. When he started quoting Nietzsche, I sent him home.
Laurie came through the kitchen.
– “Hey!” I called to her. She came closer.
“Thank you.” I said. “For … re-introducing me to Barbara.”
– “You’re welcome.” said Laurie. She just grinned.
– “I mean … you set me up. But … I’m glad you did.”
– “Of course you are.” she said. “Do you want her number?”
I grinned at Laurie. “Yes, please.”