When the sun crawls up into the sky and you drag yourself out of your tub, you realize how much of a mess your house is. The mess looked a lot more glamorous last night, like when the jello-shots became jello-cannons, or when the smoke dissolved in front of your face, or perhaps it was when she buried her phantom hand into the back of your shirt.
You stand up and look at yourself in the mirror, and you don’t recognize your reflection. You touch your face to see if it falls off, and it doesn’t. You look at your hair, and feel like it needs to change. It’s like a blue jay realizing how blue it really is, or how the moon sees how it can’t shine without the sun. All you can think about is the next party, and how exciting it will be to leave this one behind.
You remember everything. People will ask you certain things, and you’ll act as if you forgot or wish to forget a lot of things. Like when you threw up in the sink instead of the toilet, or that time she told you that you were just like your father. The thing is, there is too much to forget and you hate how you let yourself collect them. Remembering too many good parts from the party, and not enough of the bad. Sometimes you wonder if it was even good or not, but to you, right now, it wasn’t.
You go downstairs to the living room, only to be greeted by stained couches and a wooden ceiling fan slowly scratching the air around it. The CD skipping the same line over and over again: When did your heart go missing? When did your heart go missing? While the windows stayed clean and untouched, you feel as though they should be harder to break next time. Shutting the locks, just to make sure no one else gets in again.
The floor is a lost-and-found of hoodies, chapsticks, mixtapes, receipts, ticket stubs, envelops with meaningful things inside them, and greeting cards with now-meaningless things inside them. They’re all just proof. Proof of what was, and what was wasn’t enough, was it? And it hurts too much to be a gift, and it means too much to be a mess. So, you ignore all of it.
Clean too quick, and you look like you’re ready too soon: which you’re not. Clean too slowly, and you rot. Scanning the room to see what’s worth keeping, and you keep too much. You throw things away just to throw them away, and you drink drinks just to say that you drank them. You take away just to add more filth, occupied space. You tell people that there’s no such thing as a permanent mess, and people will nod their nods only knowing that they will have to nod again.
You tell people about your party. You tell everyone: Family, friends, strangers, your local Subway Sandwich Artist, telling them how it ended. You tell them how a frat let four of their dogs run into the house, how many beer cans were on your beer-sword, and how she allowed her tangerine locks fell on her shoulders when she said the party was over. You tell them these things, and they will listen. They will listen and listen and listen until they make you hear yourself. They will try to help you clean, and they will try to show you parts of your house that you have forgotten, but after a while you will soon come to realize that no one gives a shit about your party. That this, with all other parties, are just that to them. To you, it was more than that. It was a trip to the grocery, a catering-call, an alcohol run, an “I promise,” and an “I’ll never forget.” You hope she never does.
When the cleaning comes, you realize how much isn’t yours. You look for yourself in every corner of your living room, and you can’t find it. Every picture there’s somebody else, and every album is a band you never liked (Stevie Nicks, The Shins, Fleet Foxes). The ceiling fan only has one string hanging from its base. Whatever is left of what you own is only partial: The lamp has no lampshade, and the cabinets have no knobs. For a second, you feel as if something was taken. That there is no insurance that could cover this backhanded hijack. Love is robbery. It is a one-sided stick-up that no one sees coming. You can only hope to open the cabinets, just to see what’s inside. To see what else she could have taken.
You think about getting new furniture after the party you threw. You walk past and window shop for newer, younger appliances. You buy a new couch, just to sit on and think about the old couch. You cook on your new stove, only to crave the clanks and the jitters your other stove used to make (as she suggests would happen.) Throw other parties, just to forget the old party. But no matter what happens, the past party comes to mind. You look at the newly furnished house, and only see the marks of where things used to be. Trying your best to fit them into their former shape, but to no avail. You tell your friends how great they all are, and they nod their nods but see right through you.
You see people starting to throw the same party in different houses. You hear from your friends, and you try not to clench. You ask questions, and don’t like the answers. You start to compare your house with theirs. You start to wonder how brash their custard curtains are when the sun hits it in July, or if she digs her hand inside his shirt the same way she did to you. You carry these thoughts when you walk around the house. You carry them until they get too heavy, and shove them into a room where you keep all the other things. Like when she cut your hair for the first time, or when you saw her with another guy with that same haircut. Even though there’s empty space, you still see her. Whenever syrup is poured onto pancakes, or when the sun comes in just a little. You go downstairs and let the CD skip: Where did the love go? Where did the love go? Where did the love go?
When you finally find the knobs for the cabinets and the shades for the lamp, you come to see how put-together the house has become. How stable and solid the four walls that surround you are. How the furniture fits, and how the windows stay shut. You shut them as tight. You wish you didn’t have the windows because people will always want to look inside. You become afraid. Afraid of what your new insides are. How acquainted it once was to somebody, and how acquainted you were with somebody else’s. You could lock the windows up forever. You could live a life in a hallowed home. You could turn the lights on and off at night, and you could keep rooms empty. The thought of filling another You open the door, and she is standing there with a bottle of champagne and a smile. Thanking the heavens that you managed to get everything cleaned up before she came. She walks around the house as if she is haunting it. You look at her as if she is a ghost. She creeps around corners, only to shoot half-smiles back at you. She came to congratulate you on the remodeling, but you knew she really didn’t. You walk her to the kitchen table and pour two glasses and toast to the occasion. She says how her door is always open for you. She tells you how it will always be open for you. You finish your glass, and look to the windows in the living room behind her. You think of opening them, for just a second. You see her walk out the front door, but before she leaves she hands you the second string to your ceiling fan light.
You walk over to the couch, and you lay in it. You sink your body into the amber-lined cushions and you look up at the ceiling. You see the ceiling fan twirl and buckle through your house’s stratosphere. It’s one string dangles and somersaults eternally with every pivoting cycle. You look and see how it falters and pushes from the popcorn ceiling. How it once overlooked a party you once had, and many more if you allow it to. Maybe one day you’ll open your windows to someone who will enjoy the view, and maybe one day you will no longer have to fill a room with things that are meant to be kept hidden. Perhaps you’ll find yourself cleaning it again, and perhaps you won’t. There will always be messes. Some bigger than others, and some so big you’ll feel as if you won’t be able to contain it. But these messes are just what’s left of something bigger. They leave marks and tears inside you, but they’re yours to hold forever.
You begin to look around your house, and you see yourself in every corner. Even in the darkness. Even when the lights go out.
House Party Clean-Up is a story told in the second-person point of view. It tells the story of a relationship gone to the dust, and the mess someone must clean up afterward. I use different analogies to party stereotypes and mix in unique romantic actions to mix in the sterile and the incredible to make a more unique story. The story-telling aspect is very “a-matter-of-fact” which is how I feel will make this story stand out from others. I have dabbled around in keeping the gender neutral, but it is very hard to grasp an emotion that is vague from gender. Case in point, pronouns are great use when it comes to being socially correct, but when you want to convey a certain emotion or feeling it’s best to give it an identity than just “they” or “them,” which could also be confusing to the person reading it as well. Near the end, I drop the party metaphor and begin to tell a narrative. Although this sort of breaks the formula that I’ve been forming the first three pages, it also adds another layer to the story and I believe is something that had to happen in order to conclude and have resolution to the story.