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Applying Restraint | 2012 | House a Home


Every exit is an entry somewhere else.  

-Tom Stoppard


No Time for Principles


Daniel and his Canadian companion Eva say their goodbyes well before midnight on New Year's Eve. They, with Merrill in tow, had arrived to Tom's party less than an hour prior. None of them actually knew Tom, after all, though it turned out Daniel had a few coincidental associations among the other guests, none strong enough to overrule spending the rest of the night alone with Eva. I just told Eva that it was a pleasure to meet her (it was, albeit so briefly) and wished Daniel a nice night, since it is not for me to dictate the New Year's Eve plans of adults.

At least, this is true in principle, but New Year's Eve in no time for principles.

Merrill does not leave with them, as I have assured Daniel - to the extent he cares - that I can get her home. I drink no more than a few sips of champagne all night and therefore make for a damn fine designated driver.

Merrill chats with a man whose name I willfully let slip from my mind, but whom I will call "Moose" for the sake of convenience. Moose, I am certain in context I miss, says that he has never had balls on his chin. Merrill parries this by noting this means he is heterosexual, then gives the point, "But are you single?"

He is, he admits.

I turn from lovingly tormenting Amber - who I may be liquoring up with Jack and Cokes for my own entertainment - and say, "Wow, may I offer the slow clap here?"

Merrill has been officially dumped in the last few days, though the breakup was one of those prolonged affairs that ran the gamut of social networking statuses. When last I thought to check earlier in the week, she was complicated and he, Henry, was merely single. When I checked before leaving for the party, prior to gussying myself up to suit the demands of a supposedly formal party (after finally allowing Amber reprieve enough from my affection to dress herself in a stunning and frilly blue number), she was single and he, quite notably, was not. Given this - and the fact that Tom's party had an open invite - I could hardly let the poor girl spend such an evening alone.

When she came in, she admitted that she had never before been to a party, which is one of those statements which practically begs for her to be badgered with questions. This is a party, though, and badgering is hardly festive.

I admit to not knowing Merrill well. She is above an acquaintance - we can talk, even if we do not make a habit of it when we are mutually out of personal distress - but I would not call her a friend. We may have first connected around the time of my breakup with Emily, because I was given to harassing people on dating websites for reasons no more in depth than potential friendship. It was contact enough that I recognized her and addressed her by her screen name when she met Daniel, Hannah, Melanie, and me for a salty lunch years ago. (It made sense; I met those three on the same site as I met her.) Merrill was perhaps more Daniel's friend then as now; they had apparently gone on a few dates that came to nothing more. As can be judged from the occasional photos she posts of him wearing pink feathered boas, he trusts and cares for her. With a few exceptions, I have ample cause to have confidence in his judgment.
the crew  
A good crew

Despite and because of this specific lack in our emotional intimacy, I feel protectively toward Merrill and know even in the moment that I am projecting. In her shoes - to the extent I can imagine them given that this is the second time I have seen her - I know how vulnerable I would be feeling, how inclined I would be to stifle that voice in my head that says this is a bad idea for that cloying demon that reminds me that I have just be expelled from a relationship and aren't I entitled to a bit of a tumble (metaphorically or literally)? Merrill is an adult, I must assume she can take care of herself. And, though I know it might have seemed nearly indistinguishable from quixotic chivalry from the outside, this is not my attempt at white knighting. I do not believe that Merrill is in any way weak owing to the congenital deficiency of having a vagina. (Trust me, I adolesced alongside Buffy. Women kick just as much ass as men.)

She reports that he squeezes her into a sloppy and slightly presumptuous kiss at the stroke of midnight. She seems pleasantly baffled by this, as though wondering if this behavior was commonplace at parties. It is, at least, commonplace where there are attractive and flirty woman, alcohol, and men who see an excuse to steal kisses. I know, I've been such a man on such night.
But I go home with her

After midnight, as I note Moose's hands taking liberties that are improper not only because Merrill is freshly out of a relationship and he does not even know her surname but because he is in the middle of the party and being not even a little subtle, I suggest to Merrill that it is night about time we should be getting her home.

She looks at Moose. "No, I think I'll stay."

I glance at Amber, quickly conferring. "No," I say, "I think it would really be better if you were to come with us. Now. Please." I throw Moose a conciliatory smile, hoping he will loosen his grip on her inner thigh.

"He'll bring me home, won't you?" she very nearly coos to him. He, a bit ruddy with inebriation, agrees. Merrill then locks eyes with me, since I think she knows what I am attempting. "Don't worry."

But I do worry. I back off and ask Amber what we should do, since staying at the party to babysit someone who insists she does not require our services as chaperone or chauffeur is not how I intend to spend the remainder of my night. We decide that our duty is not to watch her get pawed, but that I will be antsy if I do not alert someone to the situation. I tentatively ask around until I am directed to a room of various partygoers, all of whom are tipsy at the absolute least. I explain the situation to Tom and then, to better suit the level of coherence of a room full of the appropriately drunk, break it down a bit. "Merrill got dumped yesterday. Technically, two days ago, since it's after midnight. I don't know her especially well, but I think I would be... not exactly in my right mind... in her position."

"So, you want us to cock block him?" Tom asks.

"I was more thinking of it as babysitting... Actually, yes. Cock block. She should not go home with him."

There is some amused hemming and hawing, some men asserting that the bond of testicular brotherhood mean that they are forbidden from directly preventing a fellow male from scoring with what seems to be an easy lay. I am instead pointed to the hostess, who knows the Moose in question, though it is implied they are not on good terms.

"So this is Tom's friend?" Kat asks.

"No," I reply sheepishly. "Her friend Daniel brought her, but he left hours ago. Tom doesn't even know Merrill. Once we leave, she will basically be on her own, but I think that's a bad idea. I wanted someone else to keep on eye on her."

"If her friend left her like that, she is on her own. I'm not interfering."

In concept, I can't disagree with that argument. And after midnight on New Year's, I am not starting 2012 by subverting the free will of others lubricated by alcohol, especially at the expense of getting home to my warm, cozy bed with my warm, cozy girlfriend.

Soon in Xenology: Amber and the apartment.

last watched: Sherlock
reading: The Picture of Dorian Gray
listening: Damien Rice

Applying Restraint | 2012 | House a Home

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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