SHORT STORY

 

Punch Drunk Love

As featured in ArtAscent “autumn” Issue (october 2018)

 
 

What the hell was I doing here? 

“You should go,” my parents insisted. “It’s your senior year.” 

I wasn’t sure why everyone kept saying that? Like it was some kind of excuse to act like a buffoon. Like it somehow absolved all the self-esteem sucking leeches I went to school with. 

Only one thing was keeping me from closing out this chapter, and his name was Eric.

So here I was, thirty minutes from home, at some Benedict Canyon ranch dressed as Barbarella chugging wine coolers.

I was asked at least a dozen times who I supposed to be, but no one got it. I wouldn’t expect them to. But he would. 

I’d gotten the idea earlier that spring when a sudden downpour had forced our tutoring session inside. He suggested his room, far from the construction underway in the kitchen. When he led me through the door I was immediately struck by the overwhelming smell, it was primal but intoxicating.

“I can give you a dry shirt if you want,” he’d said stripping off his own. I felt the need to divert my eyes somewhere but his perfect torso beckoned me to look. 

His chest swelled as he pulled a sweatshirt overhead. In the brief moment his face disappeared into the wrinkled cotton I caught a glimpse of a bulging vein that began at his navel and disappeared deep into his shorts. I felt inebriated. 

That’s when I noticed the movie poster hanging above his bed. 

“I— I’m fine,” I nervously replied. “I uhhh like your poster.”

“Yeah, isn’t she something.” His baby blues brightened. “You know, you kind of look like her.” 

Just then, a tap on my shoulder returned me to reality. I wished for it to be him. It wasn’t. It was Rachel and her coven of bitches, similarly dressed in black negligees and witch hats. 

“And just where did you dig that costume out of Amanda?” Rachel sneered. “Some geek’s wet dream?”

I should just leave. Screw this Halloween party! Screw senior year! 

“At least I actually tried dressing up tonight,” I retorted, but it came off less threatening than I’d hoped because at that moment I saw him. 

He was standing in the kitchen, by the punch bowl, wearing nothing more than a black satin vest and jeans. When our eyes finally met he smiled, revealing a glaring pair of plastic fangs.

The witches spun in unison to see where my gaze had wandered.

“Don’t even waste your time,” one of them said.

“He—” 

They all began cackling but their words escaped me. I was too busy watching Eric advance in my direction.

“I’ve been looking all over for you,” he slurred, grabbing my hand and leading me down a hallway. 

“You—you have?” I shouted over the music. 

“Sure,” he said more clearly, removing the fangs. “Can you hang on to these?” 

I took the teeth in my free hand and squeezed, hard. The fangs probed the inside of my palm. His saliva, still warm, explored the crevices between my fingers. I never wanted to let them go. 

By the time we reached the living room my head was spinning with desire. It was far more crowded in here but with Eric, it all slipped away.

He sank into the crook of a sectional and pulled me down with him. I sat in sheer ecstasy as he traced shapes with his finger around my clavicle. In between sips of warm beer he babbled on about college, his parents’ divorce, his fondness for weed. I was barely listening. With his vest now unbuttoned, abdomen exposed, all I could focus on was that alluring vein. Where did it end? I was…

“…hungry, are you?” He mumbled.“I saw pizza floating around,” I said reluctantly, “I can go look?” 

“You’re amazing Barb,” he said, running a hand through his chestnut hair.  

“No problem Barnabus.”

The second I got up from the couch the room began to pulse again. The music was raucous. The chatter, too piercing. I stumbled out into the hallway and suddenly felt so unsteady without him. 

My mind wandered back to that day in his bedroom. Our skin, wet, erect with goosebumps. Tangled atop those jersey bedsheets perfumed in sweat and eucalyptus. We still had so much to learn, I needed to find him again. 

When I navigated my way back to Eric he was just as I’d left him, except for the lanky mermaid that now swam on his lap, their tongues twisted together in a riotous dance. She had two fingers hooked along the edge of his jeans, so dangerously close to that vein. My vein!

So, he’d fallen for a siren slut. I looked into his blue eyes and they seemed duller. I didn’t recognize him anymore.

I later found myself drowning in the punch, polluted with false hope, and realized I was still holding on to his plastic fangs. I tossed them right into the bowl and watched as they bobbed along the surface for only a second before sinking, like my feelings, into the scarlet abyss. 

When the cops pulled me over on Mulholland an hour later for speeding I was too drunk to function. All I recall was what I told the officers when they ordered me out of the vehicle. 

“It’s all good,” I had said. “It’s my senior year.”

 
OMeara_Christopher_TheresSomethingInThePunch.jpg

“There’s Something in the Punch.”

DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY / 2018