It’s not a party, just a kickback. The hostess invited over 9 people she went to high school with. The group, now even in men and women with the addition of the roommate, is in the middle of a game of ’90s Trivial Pursuit. Team Chimi-Chimichanga wins over Team Chingaderas and Team Wolf. They got all the easy questions. For a while, one of the young women reads trivia questions from cards letting whoever knows the answer guess. They don’t keep score. Around the room, some of the guys refill their plastic blue cups with ice, orange juice and vodka.
As the kickback dies down, the hostess re-captures the attention of her high school buddies with karaoke. She sets up her machine next to a comfy chair and hooks it up to a projector on the coffee table. The lyrics to pop tunes suddenly appear in white and red with a bright blue background on the bare wall. Everyone takes their turn singing new and old pop tunes like “My way,” “Beat it,” “Hey ya!” and “Como la flor.”
They begin to get thirsty and a little hungry. The guys fill their cups with coke and rum, vodka and orange juice, and anything else alcoholic on the wooden kitchen table. In the kitchen, in the middle of her second screwdriver, the roommate takes a double shot of tequila with the guy who goes to that other school across town. They rejoin the gathering in the living room. She starts reminiscing with one of the guys who also went to her school. As she finishes her second screwdriver, she tells her fellow Bruin, “you know what to do!” He fills her cup again and she watches the Selena-inspired duo by two former Knights.
It’s not too long until she finds herself in the kitchen again. The chocolate swirl cheesecake from Marie Callender’s is gone. The table is still full of all sorts of liquor, mixers, and trays with tortilla chips. The ex-sailor USC student is at the table again. The roommate asks him to get her another shot of tequila. He pours some water into the double shot of whisky. “Are you watering that down,” she asks? “No,” he explains, “this is just how you drink whisky.” He offers her a taste and she sips a little bit of whisky. She scrunches her nose the way she does when she doesn’t really like something. She picks up her shot of tequila. They toast and drink.
She senses he wants another cigarette. “Want to go outside?” she asks. “Yeah,” he says. They walk out of the front door together.
What do you think happened?
No… none of that.
They talked about research that he does in his communication studies program. He watches kids programming, like the Twinks and Spongebob and codes cartoons for hypersexualized images. He smokes and they talk about San Fernando Valley politicians. A few minutes later, another guy comes out. Just like her fellow researcher, he’s also an ex-military man. The three sit outside in the driveway and listen to the other alums from the East LA magnet high school sing “Summer Nights” from Grease.
She keeps interrupting them, and then quickly apologizing for talking too much. “You know, I get along very well with guys with your names.”
“Really?” the ex-Air Force guy asks.
It’s true. One shares her brother’s name and the other has the name of a cousin, and a few very good friends. They’re bound to be cool with each other, even when sober.
Eventually, they go back in to her room where they check out her trombone. One guy checks out the shiny brass horn that hasn’t been removed from the beat up black case since winter 2000 while the other looks at piles of CD’s. “This is a great album,” he says. She looks over to see him holding Kind of Blue and nods her head. Before they leave with their designated driver, the guy who got annoyed when she made fun of Radiohead, they say “expect our friend request tomorrow.”
As sarcastic as always, she replies, “expect your rejection tomorrow.”
I miss high school. I miss the people I knew in high school and the relative simplicity of it all. I don’t want to go back, but I want to connect like my roommate does with her former classmates, even if she didn’t hang out with them back in the mid-90s. I want to laugh at pictures in old year books over too much alcohol and make up silly names for Trivial Pursuit teams. Oh well, I’ll live vicariously through Isa.