Outside the office window, dump trucks noisily scrawl dirt across the landscape as they’ve done every day for the past week. It’s a tedious sound, like rough sewage continuously flushing through pipes. You’ve grown accustomed to it, but every so often it sticks out.
“You have to come to our holiday party,” your officemate says suddenly, breaking the construction noise reverie.
“We have free Chipotle for like 40 and we want to have lots of people we don’t know. You have to bring your friends too.”
Who are you to say no? You’ve never seen your officemate outside of work, despite the fact that you’ve amicably shared an office for over two years. Deep down, you consider her kind of a sister in the same way you regard so many female friends, human beings with whom you can safely share emotions and concerns. This is a chance to expand that relationship. And maybe meet her hot female friends.
The night arrives.
Some of your friends are out of town. Others are not enthusiastic. You might have to do this thing on your own.
You being me in this case, you’re terrified of attending an event like this alone. The thought of going to a social gathering without some sort of human safety net by your side causes you to feel physically ill. Shivers and cold sweat run down your spine because what if something goes wrong?!?! What if it’s AWKWARD?!?!?!?! Notwithstanding the fact that you were formally invited by your officemate, who could, under most circumstances, qualify as such a safety net individual. The air is rife with self-imposed hypocrisy.
You text a friend. Maybe he’s around, maybe he wants to go eat catered Chipotle and suffer with you in this potential death zone of a holiday party. Maybe he’ll agree to hold your hand like a child as you introduce yourself to perfectly acceptable human beings at this remarkably delightful occasion. It’s clear the self-hate part of the evening is kicking in. Quiet, Anger! Just texting the friend was a monument of effort. You are on the righteous path.
Alcohol! Ah, sweet numbing nectar. You crack a beer or three. If ever there was an elixir to remind you that meeting people is not the same as slicing off a limb, it is cold, refreshing Rolling Rock, straight from the 30 rack in the fridge. At least, that’s the hope. It doesn’t offer an instantaneous feeling of well-being and success, but that’s okay, you’ve got a little time before you have to leave for the party. You don’t want to arrive too early after all – although, wait, this is kind of a grown-up party, right? A work party? Do you not show up to those two hours late as a rule like you did for college parties? God damn, maybe it’s time to take a shot.
Why hasn’t that friend texted you back? Is he dead? You hope not, but you also maybe hope that’s the case because otherwise he’s willfully ignoring you.
Whatever whatever whatever time is up, you have to go or you have to stay. The far border of the grey zone between awkwardly early and fashionably late is rapidly approaching. Scramble! Clothes! A tie? Another beer! Really? No, maybe not. Check you phone quick. Put on some pump-up jams. You’re dressed, you’ve got a tie on (why did you put on a tie?), you absolutely have to do it now. YOU HAVE TO.
You put on your coat. You place your keys in your left pocket, your phone in the right. You slide your wallet into the inner pocket, along with a credit card bottle opener. You snag the Christmas beer from the fridge. You take one last look at the Christmas light-lit living room, listen for one more chorus of Tove Lo’s soothing lyrics.
“Fuck it,” you announce to no one and everyone at once and step outside.
Right into a wall of freezing rain.
“Fuck it,” you announce again, this time to yourself. “Fuck it all to hell.”