At the end of winter, when those who’ve held out all winter get flus, Danny went to a party. Danny hadn’t been single long. Not really ever been. A few months later, Christmas time, his friends presented Best Ofs for the year, or duked them out over eggnog. Danny won Best Awkward Hitting On Everyone We Know and could only look around at his friends. This party was a Halloween one but he was not dressed up. Or was dressed as a hick, in a cap of mangled leather, but this had been the way for many of the colourful parties that season. One of his friends was dressed as a sailor ghost. But he often wore a sailor’s shirt, and ended up drawing a dancing tatt on his arm that looked like his girlfriend.
This party in October was in deep suburbs. So there was a marvellous yard without the errors of homes closer to the city, which all sloped or were populous with stumps. Everyone sat in circles – small ones with their friends. And as circles broke, as people went upstairs to pee, the groups loosened and rejoined. But in circles, always circles, as though the cosmos held a slow light compass.
Danny sat on a chocolate couch beneath the house talking to Aaron, who he hadn’t known lived there with Luise. Through his time on the couch, he caught the motions of the yard through the load-bearing posts. Those who stood, or were hoisted by their lovers, came close to the house and spoke privately, not knowing a splinter cell relaxed beneath. When Danny climbed the stairs to pee and looked upon the panorama, the configuration had reached its apex in one circle twenty-strong.
He couldn’t get drunk tonight. They probably have to do with the speed you start at: those nights where no matter what you do, you keep that three-drinks feeling. He descended the stairs and the sailor ghost had out one nut, another fun thing that was not so special.
Danny had never really ‘regarded’ Aaron. Aaron came to some parties when he moved to the city. He tried people on and found those who fit in Danny’s periphery, and became someone Danny saw a couple times a year. On the chocolate couch, their conversation had felt free-floating. It contained a degree of good electricity and a degree of harm, but Danny was unable to determine what these degrees were. They established that it was not Aaron’s party, but Luise’s. Aaron was uncomfortable tonight for probably no reason. And Aaron was studying comparative religion and listening to Dismemberment Plan. Danny was no longer living alone – someone had moved into his spare room, a girl he cooked with. And it wasn’t so far away for Aaron in this suburb, just you had to catch a train, a system for which Danny held fear. Everything Danny and Aaron spoke of was boring, but the conversation was like tasting someone else’s meal. Hardly consciously, once he’d peed, Danny corrected a stagger in the circle, placing himself in a sort of mirroring position to the person creating the stagger. A mirroring position is probably the wrong term. He created a shape optically pleasing when you considered the limbs and focuses of the other people in the circle.
Although Danny had the three-drinks feeling, everyone around him was walking and falling and failing to hoist, and the air had snapped, releasing coldness. The sailor ghost was flexing the dancing girl on his arm. Danny got a funny feeling from the tattoo; she resembled the sailor’s girlfriend so uncannily, the breasts must also have been hers. For feeling so funny he called a cab, and sat on the curb with the girlfriend and the sailor ghost. After half an hour a cab came and he let them take it; the cab was black and white, but no one could remember who had called the black and white company and who yellow. He felt he was sitting in mist. He called both the black and white company and the yellow, though it felt like lying. Neither company had a booking for this address. He realised the mist was not still, but was a slow drift of rain. The air snapped again and the rain fell more quickly and Danny ascended the stairs and Aaron stood by a wall. He said Danny could sleep in his bed. Danny said, Top to tail? Aaron said, Why not? But Danny recalled what he’d promised the girl he cooked with: that he was through spooning boys. He had been spooning too many, and though the promise was unsolicited, he thought that it was good. Anyway he said to Aaron, Sure. Then another black and white came, even though Danny knew the yellow company had a fleet almost double in size. He was quiet to the driver, who spoke with a clip.
When the new winter began, Danny ran into Luise and followed her home. The sky shifts to cold, to such clarified black, and someone like Danny gets ideas in his head. Like exercising too much, or following acquaintances home. The beginning of winter is a dangerous time for the healthy. They sweat and it’s a time for sweat to freeze. Danny was aquiline like a shark, but he’d been doing push-ups and felt strong as a bull. A bull shark.
Luise’s room was at the top of the stairs. Her door had been closed at her party, and looked so like a wall that Danny’d missed it. He began to smoke. You can’t smoke there, she said. My clothes. These were all dresses, and looked fine. So they sat at the bottom and Luise bummed his smokes and put them out in one piece of junk mail. She loved the band Roxette. You’re not into Aaron, are you? she said. Danny had not really ‘regarded’ Aaron since Halloween. I think that Aaron is straight, he said. Come on, said Luise, let me show you his room.
Aaron had a raised bed, half a bunk, and a little desk beneath. The blue of the bunk bed pulled away the desk’s rigour and made it childish. This was the Seuss box set Luise had given him for Christmas, these were the books in miniature, and this was his CD drawer, including Dismemberment Plan. The CD triggered Danny’s feeling of Aaron – the good electric and the harm. So the room’s childishness was ready to lift when Luise said, That bed creaks. Her statement reminded Danny that Aaron had gone out with Luise when he first moved. Why did you show me this? said Danny. Luise said, You asked, which wasn’t true at all. Feeling energised, Danny decided to walk part of the way home and hail a cab. This walk felt like when you walk somewhere new but have directions. The walk is not long, but indeterminate, like it could be. It felt as though every sound could be a human sound. Danny made up a game called Tree or Person – where you try to work out whether a dark shape is a tree or a person – and played it in his head. He texted Aaron.
Aaron could not find the party later that week, and when he arrived, he was uncomfortable. For Danny, parties were compressed people, so he could not find fault in them. This was the small birthday of a friend, and everyone was inside. Inside-parties are choppy and no matter how good the couches are, people hover in the kitchen on silver wires. The sailor ghost played poker. Danny and Aaron sat outside among the plants. The birthday girl grew garlic. Danny still cooked. Aaron said he was attending job interviews, to work out what to do. This caused Danny to consider what to do in general with his life, which brought their electricity to ground. Hungry? he said, and offered risotto.
Aaron said Danny’s apartment looked like a human-box, though he didn’t sound too critical. Danny had lived alone although not single, and the girl moved in when he was done. The human-box suited them, and the rule was they could wake each other with coffee. Aaron hovered in the kitchen while Danny cooked. Mostly they were silent, because he cooked with the music up. The risotto came out like pudding, and Aaron thought it might work with cheese. He said, I’m sorry if I was weird at that party. You weren’t, said Danny, not sure which party he meant. Aaron said, It’s just I’ve never had someone come so full-on onto me. On the chocolate couch. He was looking at Danny very openly.
Danny experienced one of those memories where you vividly render not only what happened around you but also yourself. He was spooning Gavin or Zach, post-drunk and tired out, saying something stupid about how the blinds lined the moonlight, or how the lights widened their limbs. Then specific things he said: Have you ever done this before? And eating risotto in the human-box, he felt as tired out as in the memory. He felt the need to sleep diagonally in his giant bed. Later on he heard the girl he lived with come home, and in the morning he made Aaron coffee, another later for the girl.