Drop #44: Back in Town

I’m back in town after two years abroad in Asia and South America, and Mikiko has organized a party for me at this bar I used to go to, inviting all the people I used to hang out with. I don’t know why she went to the trouble. She says it’s the least she could do.

I’m there early but everyone else has already arrived. One by one they come over, grinning, to say hello, and hug and kiss me. They each wait their turn, like I saw people do with the gurus in Uttar Pradesh. Mikiko stands nearby, looking proud, and when they’re done, we spread out into the bar where everyone tries to buy me drinks.

‘So good to see you, man,’ Gavin says, handing me a beer. ‘You know, my grandfather stills talks about that afternoon when you two played chess and drank gin and talked about old planes.’

‘Excellent,’ I say. ‘Tell him I send my best. Oh, and thanks for the beer.’

It tastes really good, as beers only sometimes do.

Catherine steals me away. She talks about her dancing, telling me that even if we didn’t end up together, the night I took her to the salsa bar was the best date she ever went on. Apparently she never danced like that with anyone before or since, not even the guys at the studio. Then she leans in and whispers in my ear: ‘the sex was pretty amazing too.’ She bites her lower lip like they do in the movies, and you know what? It’s pretty seductive.

Carl comes along and puts an arm around my shoulder. ‘Can’t tell you how happy I am you’re back,’ he says. ‘Sticking around for a while, I hope.’

‘Can’t promise that.’

‘I’ll take what I can get.’ He grabs a handful of cashews. ‘Hey,’ he says, chewing, ‘maybe we can hang out just the two of us one night, like old times.’

‘Maybe.’

‘Of course, I don’t expect it to be as good as back then. Those were the best times of my life, man! I still have that sculpture of the beaver in my apartment, and this of course.’ He rolls up his sleeve to show a large scar above the wrist. ‘Oh, and I’m still not allowed back in Bentley’s.’ He chuckles.

Later, Marla and Mac come up to thank me for helping them through that rough patch a few years back. ‘You saved our marriage, dude,’ Rodrigo says. Guy is so tanned. ‘No, really,’ Marla adds, ‘we wouldn’t have made it if it wasn’t for you.’ And she’s so pale.

‘No problem,’ I say as Jacob comes over to thank me too. I’d forgotten that I set him up at Hound Dog’s Bar and Grill with his first bartending job. Apparently he’s done well for himself serving drinks.

And finally, when most of the guests have left, Mikiko, who has been waiting patiently off to the side, comes over meekly and repeats how happy she is to have me around again. She becomes quite emotional as she tells me how much it meant to her that I took an interest in her photography but particularly, that I made such an effort to help her improve her English. ‘You were a very good teacher,’ she says, hugging me with the earnestness and awkwardness only a small Japanese woman can deliver.

‘You are welcome,’ I say, ‘and thanks for organizing this.’

I walk back to the flat. You don’t get this type of cold in SE Asia and I want to savor its bite before leaving again. It was a nice party but it felt somewhat artificial. I know all these people, sure, but it’s a knowledge tied to a past that has failed to evolve. Obviously, I was once central in their lives, through acts that solved problems and made them tolerable, and sometimes, even inspired them, but the memories staggering back into an updated mind are pale and lifeless. Fine people these, I know, and I wish them the best, but I can’t help having left them behind. And soon, resuming the journey, I will shed even the tiniest scraps of nostalgia once more.

By E.M. Vireo

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About EM Vireo
flooding the world with fiction

10 Responses to Drop #44: Back in Town

  1. I can feel this scene – the event staged just for me – and the awkwardness of it. Being the center of attention at any time leaves me nervous and I detach, watching the event as an out-of-body experience. I am both present and absent. I am not invested in it; I only watch myself participate. Old friends have a way of reappearing as ghosts, as shells of themselves, harbingers of memories I might not want to relive. As you say, the memories no longer fit.

    Haven’t been here in a while – wrestling with WordPress issues in IE9, which I never use if I can help it but had reason to the other day and for some reason it doesn’t like my blog site. Grr.. Missed reading your drops in the meantime…

  2. Computers can be a pain at times….8)

  3. MCL says:

    Great picture painting, well done, you have talent

  4. AP says:

    well written! very vivid. the piece feels alive especially because most of us have dealt with a reunions which were great for what they were but in essence a forced connection with people and events past. great work!

    • AP says:

      sorry about the typo. it should read “dealt with reunions”

      • EM Vireo says:

        i always kind of like the way certain typos sound. I turn them into names sometimes, but it wouldn’t work in this case. I like this one though. It could work as a faultless sentence if ‘reunions’ was something specific and singular, like a brand name for a shopping mall chain – eg: ‘hey, Sally, you want to go to Reunions after class?’ ‘Nah, I’m going to Celebrations with my dad.’

    • EM Vireo says:

      Hey, thanks a lot!

  5. I live in SE Asia and every time I go home the gap between me and people I once hung around with seems to either get wider or not matter. And from that you know who your real friends are. Most of these people seem to be people who meant something for a moment but only a moment. The problem is it’s really hard to care for them even if you meant something to them and in the end you always end up being seen as a c**t even if you don’t mean to

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