Someone had some money and spent it at this party, however. There were bottles everywhere, remember? Brown and green, they stood shoulder-to-shoulder on that beat-up coffee table, ringing when someone walked by. So many bottles, spit-filled and swallowing cigarettes like those geese that turn into foie gras. Some bottles were still struggling; half-alive, forgotten and miserable. They’d be in garbage-can mass graves tomorrow. But most of them were already dead, thank god.
Meredith was leaning back into that old couch as far as she could, her sleeves buried into pillows that stunk like spaghetti and cat litter. She was drunk to the point of scowls and sudden laughter, and no one was watching her as she flicked at the label on her Bud. Her fingernail caught it, finally, and she worked under the paper until it stuck out ugly. Meredith pulled it off, and tossed it onto a pile of label orphans on the coffee table. Meredith was sighing, I think.
Her head rolled over like a tired dog when Anthony entered the living room. Anthony sat across from her, his shoulder towards the window. Goosebumps from the Chicago breeze.
“Is she still here?” slurred Meredith.
“Yeah, she’s in the kitchen.”
“I think I fucked up,” said Meredith.
“No, you didn’t.”
Anthony got up, and shut the window. Too cold already, that September. He continued, “Why? Why do you even say that?”
“She could tell. Or I told her, I don’t remember.”
“What did you tell her?” Anthony watched a roach crawl across the carpet. Didn’t say anything to Meredith ’bout it, cause she would have seriously freaked out.
“I told her I had a crush on her.”
“Is that it?”
“I told her that I’ve had it for four years almost.”
Anthony breathed out his nose, and scratched a place on his hand that didn’t itch. A couple came bounding into the living room; the beer bottles on the table cried out against each other; Finish Us, they screamed. But the couple just asked where the bathroom was, and laughed their way back down the hall.
Anthony nodded to himself, measuring his questions against Mere’s blood-alcohol level. His lips made a sticky sound before he asked, “What did she say?”
Meredith shook her head. “She invited me over for Christmas.”
“Then … how did you fuck up?”
“I don’t know. I just did.”
Remember Christmas? Remember Christmas? Remember eating a late dinner in a suburb abandoned by everyone-who-had-families, watching a movie and talking till three am? Meredith looked up into my eyes and said, “We can’t do this.”
I said, “Don’t worry.” Man, I could make Meredith blush.
Our lips were purple from cheap Merlot and our kisses exploded out onto each other like lava buckshot. Fire that would become love that would become hate that would become love which would weaken with disbelief which would beget jealousy that would fade into love again and be recalled four thousand miles away on shag couches in the basement of some bar. Smash together, cry out, scream and strip each other to the bone, before she tells you, “The only thing I ask is that you don’t kiss me.”
Years before we became reluctant antagonists, that’s all we did on Christmas Eve: Kiss.