Dan

Purgatory Tactics

Man, shit. It smells like a hospital in here. All rubber and get-well-soon balloons, tanks of gas, linoleum dosed with cleaning supplies. Stacks of grim colors, floor to ceiling plastic heart replacements destined for the landfill. Party City is a fucked up place when you’re all alone, late at night.

Nobody comes to buy supplies for a party this late. Why is this place even open? Maybe they already closed, and I just didn’t hear cuz I’m so high? Shit. Now I’ll have to survive by hunting piñatas and eating their shitty stale candy. Shit shit shit. I’m gonna have to sleep in here, head on a god damned pile of cocktail napkins that say “CHEERS!” on them. I’ll wake up and have to pretend I just got here early to buy supplies for my nephew’s fuckin’ giraffe-themed birthday party. Annnnd yup, there’s the cash registers, nobody there. Ghost town. I’m fuckin’ locked in, and I can’t get out.

Okay, no, wait. That’s gotta be the weed talking. I shoulda listened to Kev. Definitely shouldn’t have eaten that second brownie. Fuck me. There’s no way they leave the muzak playing all night, right? Calm down. It’s just a friggin’ giant empty party store. No big. Gonna just walk around and try to remember why I’m here. Get the heart back down from orbit.

Man, what even is this crap? Cowboy parties? Ice cream parties? Baptism parties? Who the hell has the time to celebrate gettin’ dunked in the Lord’s holy juices? How come I don’t ever get invited to ice cream parties, dude? Casino themed party bullshit? Mad hatter tea party, mass produced! “Sassy” versus “classy” bachelorette parties, okay, society is just straight doomed. Why is Party City selling underwear that says “Bachelorette” on it? I didn’t need to know that. Fuck, I did not need to know that existed.

Oh shit, there’s Kevin at the end of the aisle! Don’t yell. Keep it cool. Yelling in a quiet Party City is not cool, dude. Like, worse than yelling in the library. They’ll call the cops on you for that crap, for certain.

Dodge the endcaps, try to find which aisle he’s going down. Themed plastic table settings. Nope. Costumes. Nope. Balloons that have jokes on them. There he is! Wait, why are there nunchucks?

“Kevin, what the hell are we doing here? Who in fuck’s name dresses their kids up as Amelia Earhart and Abe Lincoln?”

Kevin laughs. “What are you even talking about?”

“Dude, back over here, have you seen the costume aisle?” We walk through the warehouse from the end of Indiana Jones, except the evidence crates are all party supplies for the kinds of parties I would run from. It’s worse than having God hiding in his weird little gold house somewhere, knowing that God’s never been in this fuckin’ place. I really doubt he’d be able to sleep in a fake pirate chest that says “It’s Yarrr Birthday!” on it.

I point down the costume aisle, and then shove my hands as far into my sweatshirt pockets as they’ll go.

Kevin laughs, real loud. “Wow, now I kinda want to buy a plastic ninja sword.” He swings it towards me, menacing grin, and I back up, trying to laugh all normal.

We wander through the endless aisles. Kevin points the sword at a plastic limbo set. “Hey, did you know that the original tradition had people limbo from the lowest up to the highest bar? It was, like, signaling a release of tension, or a growing from death back into life, or some shit.” He stares at me. I blink a few times.

Handing me the sword, Kevin says “Hold it up!” Then he makes like it’s a limbo bar and laughs his way under it. “Guess when it got popularized we made it into a fuggin’ competition.”

“I guess we’d rather pretend we can beat death,” I say, carefully sliding the sword back on a shelf in between plastic champagne flutes that proclaim “It’s a Boy!” I glance up at the fluorescent lights. My heart is pounding, still. I wanna lie down. I want to see the stars or the sun or hear some other humans talking. But all I can see is floor-to-ceiling plastic. The muzak is playing a truly shit instrumental rendition of “Manic Monday”. Why did we come here?

Kevin hits me in the ear with the sword, giggling. “Dude, lighten the hell up!”

I hear myself ask him, “Why are we here, man?” and it sounds even stupider out loud.

“You’re the one that thought it would be funny.” He hacks over a cardboard Chewbacca, making whooshing noises. It drifts to the ground and makes a soft splut. “You were right, man, this place is hilarious late at night.”

Guess he can’t hear my heart trying to lurch back out of this limbo. I stand there, and I can feel my fists stretching my hoodie out and down to match the passing time as it seeps across the chlorine-soaked floor of fuckin’ Party City, sliding under a blacked-out wookie.

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