A Night to Forget

Today’s prompt: “Pretend you’re a recovering alcoholic who falls off the wagon at a high school reunion. Start your story with ‘I hadn’t had a drink in nearly ten years’ and end it with ‘If only I could remember where I left my pants.’ I kind of wrote, not really knowing where it was going. So, with that in mind, enjoy!

I hadn’t had a drink in nearly ten years. But that was likely about to change. Because my old high school was full of useless pricks who never knew when to shut up.

The building looked the same. With its peeling paint, and cracked brickwork. I even found the old sketch I drew of Ms. Kelly, in all her curvy glory. Tucked away in a little corner on the side of the wall. It still looked fresh. Maybe someone had gone over it in the years’ past. I had to admit – it was some of my finest work. I also had to admit that I was stalling. Anything to keep me from walking into that room.

But I’d made it this far. Might as well show my face for a half hour. Maybe they weren’t as pretentious as I remembered. Holding fast to that thought, my optimism as high as it could be without a drop of alcohol in my system, I walked into the building I hadn’t set foot in for twenty years.

And immediately realized I was wrong. My optimism plummeted. A DJ played old 90s tracks in the back, and a few eager losers were swaying in the middle of the room, apparently already drunk. And the crowd on either side was full of the douchiest-looking pretenders I’d seen in twenty years. There was Alice with her long lashes and fake tan, her nose in the air, and a rock as big as my eyeball on her left hand. I turned away only to be assaulted by an even worse sight. The King of the Douches – or Prom, whichever you prefer – one arm around Gina, the other around Andy, and a glass of red in both hands. There was a ring on his left hand too, but everyone was ignoring that.

Before I could look away in disgust, his eyes caught mine, lighting up in what I could only assume was mockery. Not that I understand why. I’d worn my blazer with the least holes to this most auspicious occasion, and my hair only stuck up in three places, thank you very much. 

King Douche’s arms slithered off the girls and he began a slow march toward me, shoulders back, chest out. The red in those glasses swished and all I could hope for was the Douche tripping up so some of that red could fly straight toward my cakehole. I’d focused so much of my thoughts on those glasses, I didn’t realise that he’d stopped before me until I was eye-level with his chest. I stepped back and met his eyes.

“Well if it isn’t Hal Turner.” His voice boomed around the small hall, ricocheted off the walls, bounced off the ceiling, demanding everyone turn and find its source. All eyes were on the two of us in an instant. The room got smaller, the music quieter. The smell of alcohol got stronger. I tried to remember what my therapist had said. Something about how alcohol dulled my emotions and I couldn’t live without emotions. Load of shit, really. What did emotions ever do to make life better? I’d like a list, I tell ya. “How’s your head?” he continued, in that same thunderous voice.

“All the better for seeing you,” I said. I tried my best grin. Probably looked weak as piss because his only got wider.

“You sure you’re okay being so close to this?” he asked, swaying one of the glasses underneath my nose.

I shook my head. “Some of us have self-control,” I replied, doing my darndest to not snatch that glass and chug the whole thing. I balled my hands into fists. “I don’t expect you to know about that.” And I stared pointedly at the two girls he’d left behind. He didn’t turn but his grin slipped a little. His recovery was fast.

“Ha!” he barked, turning to address the room. “Self-control, says good ol’ Hal.” The crowd knew better than to not laugh along. “Last I heard, you had your pants down, doing the macarena on your mother’s grave.” The laughter became raucous at that. Had to admit, it conjured a funny image. Not my finest moment, sure, but at least it made people laugh. What did King Douche ever do that was good for people? “Self-control, my ass.”

He just stared at me, then. Didn’t say a word. Just stared. And I stared back. And everyone else watched with baited breath. For what? For me to crack? To hit him? Look, I’ve had some rough times. Maybe I’ve hit a few men. Danced on mum’s grave. What man can say he hasn’t? Ok, probably a lot. But still – no man is free of embarrassing stories. Unless you’re James Bond, the suavest man to ever live. But me, I’m just your average Hal, a loser with dreams of drawing something that matters, and a problem with holding my drink. And King Douche had his own problems.

“Indeed I have fallen on some hard times,” I said, at last, and now everyone was watching me. “Maybe I don’t have as much self-control as I wished. But I don’t think you are one to judge.” I turned back to the King, who didn’t flinch. “1999. Our senior year. Perhaps the best year of your life. But I remember something that might change that.”

“Oh yeah?” King Douche said. He was almost snarling now.

“It was a long time ago, I know. But some women never really leave you, do they?” His face fell then. He knew that I knew what he’d tried to hide all these years. The crowd was with me now, hanging on to my every word. “Oh yes, I saw you. I was in the storeroom of the biology room, getting a microscope for Mr. Tate. All was quiet, until I heard hurried footsteps and a slammed door. I peeked through the sliver of the closed storeroom door, and there you were, tangled in the old arms of… Ms. Janice!”

The crowd gasped, the sounded ricocheting until it landed on the stunned face of King Douche.

“Th – that never happened,” he stammered, face turning pink then red then purple. Maybe I was seeing things. But there was no denying he was mad.

“It did. It’s seared into my mind. Those wrinkled hands of hers, and your roaming ones, and her strands of grey falling over your forehead. It was an image I never forgot. Probably the reason I started drinking in the first place. Poor King Douche caught up in the wiles of a grieving widow. An ancient one at that.”

Laughter erupted from different corners of the room. “Shut up!” Douche boomed. “That didn’t happen. You probably dreamed it when you were hallucinating on your mum’s grave.”

“Hey, at least I admit to my mistakes,” I said, shrugging. “And, since you offered, yeah I’ll take that drink.”

Swiping one glass from his hand, I turned my attention to the room. “My therapist would murder me if she saw me now, but screw it, I wanna party like it’s 1999! Who’s with me?” Cheering filled the room, as all raised their glasses and chugged the drinks down. I saw King Douche storming toward the door, and grinned. This was my kingdom now.

The DJ pumped the music and I literally lost my memory for the rest of the night.

Flashes of wine-stained teeth, and swirling dresses, a woman’s broken heel, and ties being twirling in the air – that’s all I remember. As I sit here, writing this to try to make you see that my digression was warranted, and necessary, and actually good for my progress, I don’t regret any of it… 

If only I could remember where I left my pants.

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