Reluctant Invitation

@theo

“My mom’s insisting on throwing me a pool party for my birthday, and you’re all invited,” Eva says as part of a long, unenthusiastic sigh. Tray in hand, she joins Ernie, Jan, and myself at our recent lunchtime henge out on the football field. It’s funny how subtly Boca Linda’s image has shifted from high school to sweatshop: socially-distanced gatherings of fire-resistant, artisan-looking stone workbenches; teachers and sheen monitors armed with spray bottles and grabber sticks (the spray bottles for touching up your sheen if you look too dry, the grabbers to separate undesirables caught throwing around PDAs or simply standing too close to one other); fundoshi teenagers sitting at their grindstones, as it were, and using the power hour to charge their devices, update their statuses, eat their lunches. Well, I’m eating, anyway. Jan’s busy doing something on his phone. Ernie has a copy of The San Angelico Daily Angel spread out beside his usual junk food buffet—untouched in this rare instance—and is availing himself of the latest celebrity gossip and conspiracy theories.

“Why do you sound like you’re turning thirty instead of thirteen?” I ask Eva.

“We all sound like we’re thirty,” Jan comments offhandedly. “That’s why we have no friends.”

“We have no friends because we don’t put out,” Ernie clarifies, and points to the lively gang of Naker kids preening a couple of workbenches over. (Notice how they’re all fit and beautiful and earning Newdcoin by doing nothing more than metabolizing while undressed. Nakers are always like that. “We’re all in this together!” seems to be the catchphrase of choice in today’s post-DOSVID world except when it comes to naking with the fat or old or subjectively ugly. I feel like they should have a carnival ride sign: “You must be this beautiful to get naked.”)

Eva loosens an armpit wedgie from her strophium, says to me, “When it comes to birthdays, my mom likes to band together with all the other moms she knows and make a big deal over nothing.”

“It’s not nothing,” I tell her. “It’s your birthday.”

“Ugh. Please say you’re not one of those birthday cake zealots.”

Jan looks up momentarily. “What’s a birthday cake zealot?”

“You know, those over-enthusiastic party nuts. People who just have to plan out everything right down to the last detail days, weeks, months, or even years in advance, complete with itineraries, dress codes, seating arrangements, and menu selections so that everything becomes one big chore. People who can’t just throw a party, they have to organize it.”

I shake my head. “No, I am not that.”

“My mom kind of is. Alone, she’s manageable. But when she collaborates with other moms, it snowballs into this…this big…thing. I tell her I’m okay with just pizza and cake, and she assumes I’m making a thinly-veiled cry for more RSVPs, more streamers, more balloons. Before you know it, you end up with this perfect, impending event that’s held to such a high standard all that’s left is certain disappointment. As opposed to something that’s, say, seventy-percent planned, thirty improv. Something where there’s a chance for the experience to be better as well as worse. At the very least, you might be pleasantly surprised.”

Mini works himself out of my messenger bag. “Wow. And all these years I thought parties were something you do when you want to have fun.”

“I’m just frustrated that it’s becoming my mom’s party instead of mine.”

“Who else is going?”

“Summer. Lily. A few friends from their gym or something. No more than ten guests because of dosequisvirus limitations. I figure if you guys are there, that’ll leave less room for everyone else.”

“Um…thanks?” I say.

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Jesse Gordon

Geek. Writer. Supreme overlord of the SUPERMEGANET pseudoverse. Author of THE OATMEAL MAN, DOOKIE, and other such wasteful nonsense.