Nerve Classics

It’s My Party (Winter, 1986)

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St. Regis Death Trip by Jerry Stahl

It ain’t a party ’til something gets broke,” Joe says, re-tying the Harley Davidson bandana around his forehead.

“You got that from Rob Lowe,” I say.

“What?” he says, like the word is two syllables: “Hoo-what?” He knots his eyebrows all up like he can’t believe what I’m saying is true.

“Rob Lowe said it in St. Elmo’s Fire, I say. “Duh.”

“Hey. I been sayin’ it since before that fag was born.”

I roll my eyes. “Rob Lowe is hot.”

“He’s a fag.”

Joe thinks he’s so cool, with his Harley and his friends, who have names like Beauregard, Rat, and One-Eared Kevin, who’s actually kind of cute, but not in a Rob Lowe way. Joe is my mom’s third husband and young enough to be my big brother. He might be the fattest, poorest husband she’s had yet, but he’s definitely the coolest.

“Me and yer ma’ll stay outta yer way, but if anybody starts getting outta hand, you lemme know, all right?”

I nod. This is the first real party I’ve had. Joe says we can’t drink his Jagermeister, but he gave me a joint — not that I’ll be sharing any of it.

I stick the joint in the chest pocket of my black vintage blazer, run downstairs and turn on the blue party bulb. When I come back up, Joe wants to take a picture to capture the moment. My mom starts shouting, “Cheese!” and tries to hug me. I squirm out of her liver-spotted, jiggly arms, away from her ashtray breath.

When my two best friends from Sacred Heart arrive, I give them each a beer. I take Fiona and Kelly downstairs so we can have some privacy. Downstairs is where my bedroom is — actually, it’s two low-ceilinged, carpeted rooms plus my own private bathroom. It’s like having my own apartment. Joe said I have to keep all my guests downstairs so he and my mom can have some peace. That means that his friends are going to come over, and they’re all going to get high.

“Your mom’s here?” says Fiona, walking down the spiral staircase. “Man, if my mom saw me drinking a beer she’d piss her pants.”

“Yeah well she’d rather us get wasted here than out there somewhere.”

“Yeah well my mom would just drink it all herself,” Kelly says, swirling her bottle. Kelly wears pastel oxfords, velvet headbands and plaid skirts, even when we’re not in school. Her life plan is to be a virgin until her wedding day.

Kelly wears velvet headbands and plaid skirts, even when we’re not in school. Her life plan is to be a virgin until her wedding day.

We all gulp down another mouthful, and then I go to the bathroom to check that my hair’s still crimped and my liquid eyeliner hasn’t cracked. The doorbell rings and it’s Vinnie and Mike with a case of Miller. They’re from Quigley North. That’s the boys’ school Sacred Heart always fobs us onto for plays and dances. Last year I went out with Mike for three days, but he wasn’t into fucking or even going up my shirt.

I would be in love with Vinnie, but Kelly announced she liked him the day he showed up to play rehearsal. Vinnie’s so fucking gorgeous, with one of those totally square jaws like the male models have and this bright firey hair that you wouldn’t expect. I’d fuck his brains out if Kelly didn’t have the hots for him so bad.

Some more girls from Sacred Heart arrive, straight-A losers mostly, but they have beer too.

The next guest is Nate. He’s my new boyfriend. We’ve been going out for a week and a half, since we met at a Butthole Surfers show at Cabaret Metro. At first I thought he was a real punker, with his crew cut and combat boots, but now I suspect he’s more of a regular delinquent. Nate has no neck and is way into bodybuilding.

“Hi,” I say. He looks down, shuffles his boots and then kisses my cheek.

“I brought some friends, okay?”

“Okay,” I shrug. Then I look over his shoulder and see this humongous crowd of guys spilling over the front porch onto the sidewalk and into the street: a sea of sweatshirts, jeans, and zits. Nate goes downstairs while I hold the door open for his army of friends. One of the last guys to come in has an obvious case of cerebral palsy. He’s limping and craning his head all around, with one of those sideways smiles pasted on his face, his eyes going in one direction, and his mouth going in the other. I decide to act normal about it and pretend he’s not here.

When a couple guys find out that Nate’s my boyfriend, they tell me that everyone calls him “Roid Boy.” They say he does steroids. They tell me that he bulked up to twice his size in one school year. Nate and I haven’t done it yet, and when I tell them, they say it’s because he’s impotent from all the hormones. His biceps are as big as my head.

My mom and Joe are safely out of the way upstairs, Fiona’s already making out with some ugly guy in a corner, there’s plenty of beer and Kelly’s blasting the Beatles on the stereo. Kelly is always going on about how she should have been born in 1948 so she could have experienced Beatlemania first hand. She does the Twist and the Swim and the Pony. Nate is showing the kid with cerebral palsy how to smash beer cans on his forehead. I ignore this, as planned, but I can’t help asking, “Um, Nate? Do you take steroids?”

“No way!” he says, tilting his head back, setting up another can. “Who told you that?”

I shrug.

“Because it’s complete bullshit.”

“Fine,” I say. “I believe you.”

I push through the crowd back to Kelly. She’s stopped dancing and is staring at Vinnie like some religious freak. Her perfect blond bob is all in her face. There are tears in her eyes. She sighs every last oxygen molecule out of her body and says, “I love him.”

I’ve never seen Kelly so sentimental. It’s freaky. They haven’t even kissed. She wipes her eyes, straightens her cable-knit cardigan and starts tapping her bottle with a claddagh-ringed finger. The last thing she says before putting on another record is, “Truth serum.” Vinnie barely even looks at her, but I’m boiling with jealousy because why should she get to have the spotlight? And how come I have to settle for Roid Boy, who probably can’t even fuck because his dick is so puny from steroids?

I get another beer and hear this banging coming from somewhere.

I get another beer and hear this banging coming from somewhere. When I look around, I see Roid Boy laughing his ass off with another guy, but I can barely see across the room. He is so immature. I’m going to dump his puffed-up ass. Then I spot Vinnie, talking about U2, who he’s obsessed with. I go over and say, “Fiona went around telling everyone she was the Edge’s sister because her family’s from Ireland. But she’s adopted!”

“So how would she even know?” he says, and smiles at me. I turn to mush right there and then because his eyes are so green, his lips are so full, and they’re all pointed at me. He tells me how Boy is U2’s finest moment and how he’s saving money so he can visit their hometowns, and it’s like we’re fucking already. But then Kelly comes back and starts tossing her hair all over the place, which is so gay. I look at Nate, still howling with his friend, and I realize I’m surrounded by a herd of wall-to-wall thugs, except for Vinnie, who’s completely off limits. I think I’m going to puke.

Upstairs, Joe’s friends Beau and One-Eared Kevin are over and they’re all sitting around the dining room table doing shots of Jagermeister. My mom’s there too, smoking a Merit Ultra Light and drinking a cup of black coffee.

“Hey whaddaya know!” Joe says, eyes shining, face red. “It’s the party girl!” Then he holds his massive mitts up in the air and starts going, “We’re not leavin’ ’til we’re heavin’!”

“Oh Joe, stop it,” my mom says and reaches out to grope me. “Everyone having a good time?”

“Ugh, get away from me,” I say, heading into the bathroom. I try to throw up, but there’s nothing there. I pee and fart instead, wishing everyone would leave. Sitting there on the toilet, I finally feel drunk, and it’s a relief. I can hear the music coming up through the floor and that steady banging from before. It sounds like someone’s hammering a nail into the wall. Then I remember the joint. I light it up on my way to the kitchen to get a Diet Coke, past the old people. When I close the fridge, One-Eared Kevin is standing there with a folded up piece of paper.

“Share and share alike?” he says, unfolding the square.

“Okay!” I say, thinking that this is a cool consolation prize for a totally fucked up party. Kevin makes me a line right there on the kitchen counter, and I pray my mom doesn’t walk in. She thinks cocaine is bad. I bend over and when I lift my head back up, One-Eared Kevin is trying to kiss me. He’s coming towards me and I want to run away, but I don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth, so I kiss him back a little.

“Um, okay, thanks!” I say, and duck out of the kitchen. Joe chants “Par-ty! Par-ty!” as I rush by to go back downstairs.

Kelly is making her way through the crowd, and it looks like she’s crying again.

“What happened?” I ask.

“I gotta go,” she says, buttoning her pea coat. “It’s over.”

“What?”

“He doesn’t like me.”

“What are you talking about?” The banging is getting louder. I can barely hear her. From the bottom step, I can see Nate leaning all his muscly weight on my bathroom door and cackling like a psycho.

“I thought he liked you,” I shout, but she just says “It’s over” again, and then she’s gone. I feel sorry for her. And then again, I don’t. I push my way through the hordes of pimply strangers to pick up where I left off with Vinnie. I tell him that I saw U2 at the Rosemont Horizon but had shitty seats, and he totally sympathizes.

Everything’s going great. We brush shoulders, and I give him a sip of my beer. It’s totally romantic, even though we’re crammed into a tiny room with like a thousand drunken strangers. I just know we’ll be making out before the night is through. And that’s when we hear this bellow coming from inside my bathroom a few feet away. Everyone turns to look at Nate.

It’s totally romantic, even though we’re crammed into a tiny room with like a thousand drunken strangers.

“Oh shit!” Nate says and looks at his friend and they laugh even harder. “Okay, ready?” he says, and the other one says, “Ready!” and then they open the door. The kid with cerebral palsy comes bursting out of my bathroom and falls on the floor drooling and howling. I crane my neck to see if he’s crying, but he actually looks like he’s having a hell of a time, like he doesn’t realize that Nate’s being a total fucking jerk.

“Oh my God, what are you doing?” I shout.

“Relax, he likes it. We do this all the time.” I look at the kid writhing around on the floor and really want to go over to him, to help him up, but he’s covered in drool and vomit. I think, this is so not like Jake Ryan’s party in Sixteen Candles. And then I run upstairs and get Joe.

For the first time in my life, I am thankful for one of my mom’s husbands. I am so proud to have Joe in the family right now I could kiss him — but not like one-eared Kevin kissed me.

It takes about five minutes for Joe to clear everyone out. Fiona is still making out with the ugly guy when she leaves. On the front porch, Nate starts hyperventilating, trying to puff himself up to capacity, maybe to beat somebody’s brains out. Joe just waits, and then threatens to shoot him. The palsied kid wobbles down the stairs after Nate yelling, “Cheers! Cheers!” and then no one’s left except Vinnie, who’s talking to my mom about U2, a fresh Budweiser in his hand. After she yawns in his face and says goodnight, Vinnie heads for the door, but I say, “Um, d’you wanna finish that downstairs?” and he nods yes.

Vinnie tells me how cool my mom is. I make retching noises and put U2 on the tape deck. It doesn’t take long before we’re making out.

And you know it’s time to go
through the sleet and driving snow
across the fields of mourning to a
light that’s in the distance

This is so meaningful and important, but Vinnie keeps opening and closing his mouth and it gets pretty complicated. Every time I close my mouth, he opens his, and pretty soon my face is covered in spit, so I decide to move it along to the next level and undo his pants.

Vinnie has the skinniest dick I’ve ever seen — skinny but long. I’m convinced it’s gonna poke my eye out from the inside while we’re fucking. My left eye starts aching just thinking about it, so I shut it tight. So I’m lying on my back with my feet in the air and my eye screwed shut, with Vinnie going in and out, and I’m trying like hell to like it. I mean, he’s so gorgeous, I can see that with my right eye, but it’s not happening.

After he jizzes all over my stomach, he falls into a deep snoring sleep. I lie next to him and close my eyes, but I can’t stop thinking about Vinnie’s dick, and Kelly and Roid Boy and One-Eared Kevin, and the boy locked in my bathroom all night. Maybe it’s the coke. It’s almost two a.m. when the phone rings. It’s Kelly.

“I can’t sleep,” she says.

“Oh. That sucks. Did you try counting sheep?”

“No. I came back to the party to see you but everyone was leaving.”

I tell her about the kid in the bathroom, but I already know that she’s really calling because she knows I just fucked Vinnie. Somehow Kelly knows. I drag the phone into the bathroom and sit on the toilet, my head already in my hands.

She sounds like she’s getting weepy again. “You didn’t by any chance see Vincent leave?” she asks.

“Um, I think he left with Mike, but I don’t know where he went.”

“Because I waited for him to come out but he never did,” she sighs.

“Well, he’s not here,” I say, probably too quickly. I fake a yawn so maybe she’ll get the hint and let me off the hook because I can’t go on with all these lies. I wish I could remind her that when I was totally in love with Adam Siegel, Fiona went home with him and called me the next day bragging about how he fingered her all night. It didn’t matter to her that I liked him. Kelly should be thanking me for not telling.

“Well, okay,” she sighs. “I just got this weird feeling. I’m kind of psychic about stuff like this. I just pictured you guys together and . . . I’m just . . . ” I can hear her try to not cry. “I just like him so much, you know?”

“I know.”

When we finally say good-bye, I look up and see a crater in my bathroom wall the exact size of a boy’s head.

This essay originally appeared in Nerve’s Personal Essays in 2002.