Bad Scene, Everyone’s Fault

With every passing chord and tone, David sinks more and more into the corner of the puke yellow floral couch beneath him. He swears his grandmother used to own the same couch; she may have actually owned this exact one at some point. It wouldn’t surprise him at all. The couch smells of cigarettes and mildew, like a pair of rain-soaked jeans that were never properly hung up to dry. David presses himself more and more into the back and bottom cushions, knowing full well that the stench will stay on his clothes, though he tries to feign ignorance. Cathy sits beside him, although she is nearly a foot away at this point, and gradually moving farther as David keeps sinking. Her feet are planted firmly and squarely on the ground, and her body leans forward attentively. Her elbows rest on her knees and her hands support her heavy head, suddenly full of fantasies and dreams and alcohol. David looks towards her, hoping to catch her eye, but he cannot find it in the dim mood lighting of the room. The lone ceiling light is obscured from view by a store brought “Indian” tapestry that hangs like an inverted parachute below it, dulling the glow and tinting it with the colors of the cloth. The shards of light that escape are refracted through the smoke of cigarettes, and this somehow illuminates the room better than the ceiling light does itself. David can’t help but notice the smell again.

The guy on the stool in the front of the room sweeps his hand across the face of his acoustic guitar, making sure to pick out each individual string; the guitar is a wooden blond color, with a few brownish and blackish scars, and a torn-out hole at the top of the body still fresh with splinters. He ends his song on a cruel minor chord and takes another drag from a cigarette. A quiet but passionate applause abruptly fills the room. Cathy looks over at David, and even though the lighting in the room is still mostly absent, he can see her face glowing. “That was incredible!” she whispers to him with a smile that shimmers subtly in the light of the cigarette smoke. “Don’t you think?” Dave snaps out of his grumpy trance and sits up on the couch, mumbling some kind of affirmation to her. He opens his mouth to ask if her if she wants to leave the party, but he is interrupted by the howl of another sad, insincere song.

“And tonight,” he sings with a whisper, “When I stop my car and look up at the sky…”-he holds the ‘y’ for far too long, poorly riffing on it-“…all that I see is your eyes.” David starts to sink again, but holds himself steady as he watches Cathy’s chest expand. She sighs heavily and allows her own posture to sink this time, rolling her shoulders. She moves her right hand from her chin to the cushion of the couch where David’s hand sat before, and shifts the weight of her head to her left hand. Her fingers stroke cushions and her hand fumbles and fidgets like a boy on a bad date.
When David finally notices her hand, it is spread out like an embroidered, off-white flower on the otherwise grotesque 1970s upholstery. He wants to reach out and touch it, but not here. He watches as she taps her fingers in triplets with the music, and thinks about how much better it would make this song to have Cathy playing finger cymbals. The thought of this makes him laugh out loud, and the whole room, full of otherwise silent and attentive patrons, shoot bullet stares in his direction. He tries to dodge them, but he can’t escape his corner of the couch in time.

During the applause for the latest song, David sits up, and Cathy finally turns her attention to him. He places his right hand on her right knee, and says, “I’m gonna go grab another beer, you want one?” In his head, he acknowledges his terrible decision, but hopes it doesn’t show in his face.

“I’ll be okay, I’m just gonna watch this guy play for a little longer,” she responds. David nods twice, pats her knee, and gets up and walks to the kitchen. He takes a can of beer out of the fridge, and drinks it alone. The kitchen is just as crowded as the living room was, but David just leans against the stove and keeps to himself. No one gives him a passing thought, until the smell of gas begins to fill the room. One by one, every head turns in his direction, and David, oblivious, keeps drinking his beer. A minute passes by, and then two, and the odor finally breaks through the congestion in his nose. He jumps up when the realization hits, and when he looks down at the stove, notices that he had turned the gas on. He finishes his beer, and turns the dial off again. As he faces back to the crowd, all he can do is wave and yelp, “Sorry! Sorry about that!” on his way out of the kitchen.

As David re-enters the living room, he notices Cathy conversing with the guy who had just been playing guitar; he has usurped David’s couch corner throne, but he does not slouch or sink like David did. He crushes the can of beer in his hand and lets hit the floor as he heads back to the kitchen for another. Cathy sees him turn away, and jumps up from the couch to see what is wrong. She takes two steps and stops herself. He’s just getting another beer, she thinks to herself as she sits back down on the couch.This party’s really great after all!

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