After exchanging several friendly messages through the personals, Giacomo suggested we meet. I wasn’t opposed to this: I had just broken up with my boyfriend Jeff (for the first time) and Giacomo was in a band.
“If it would make you feel more comfortable, why don’t you have a get together or something so your friends can be there,” Giacomo suggested, unaware that he was dealing with a girl who picked up hitch hikers as a weeknight hobby and made friends by inviting people in off the street. But who am I to turn down the opportunity to throw a party?
Like all my parties back then, I spent more time focusing on food pairings when I should have been considering the opposing personality types that made up my guest list. But like an asshole, I invited Jeff, the guy I had JUST broken up with; Justin, the boy who broke my heart in my high school; Brian, the priest-in-training; Lisa, the Christian who didn’t believe in Catholic ideologies; Cinn, the antagonizing Athiest; and a smattering of neutral personalities to make up the audience for when things eventually became heated.
Things went well at first. Giacomo arrived and I felt an immediate ease around him. There were no romantic sparks, but I felt that at the very least we could possibly be friends. Plus, he carried a toothbrush with him, and you know what they say about men with good oral hygiene.
But then Cinn arrived. And the thing with Cinn is that she doesn’t just demand attention, she COMMANDS it. So here she comes, breezing through the door with her shocking red spikes and faux-goth persona, interrupting conversation with her callous commentary. I think Janna was the only person she liked and everyone else immediately fell under her scrutiny. My ex-boyfriend Jeff was extremely intimidated by her, and he sunk down against me on the couch.
Cinn took a seat next to Lisa, who had yet to meet her. It was like spying on an angel and a devil, sitting together in a waiting room. I began to worry.
The subject of tattoos came up, and I had recently gotten the start of a large sun on my mid-to-lower back. When Giacomo asked to see it, I rose from the couch and began drawing my shirt up slightly. I was wearing a pink ankle-length skirt, fitted around the top. From across the room, Cinn heckled, “Suck it in, Erin!”
I was humiliated.
The sad part is that I wasn’t even fat then; but when you’re a fat kid – even if that moment of your childhood is a fleeting window – you carry that chip with you. And that chip is double-fried in saturated fat, salted, and layered with ten strips of bacon. My face still gets flushed when I think of that moment. It will probably never stop hurting and the lucidity will likely never dull. The memory of it will forever outshine some of the best moments in my life thus far.
It shut me up. It shut the entire room up. Cinn was left to laugh alone in her chair while everyone else tugged at their collars awkwardly. Jeff reached over and squeezed my hand. Eventually conversation resumed.
My ego was still smartin’ but I had a new guest to entertain. I tried to focus on immersing him into the dysfunctional circus that was my social circle, when I began picking up on a conversation from across the room that seemed to be steadily increasing in volume and tension.
A religious debate. Of course! What good is a party without people screaming over top of mini quiches and shrimp cocktail about Confession. Somehow, Cinn and Lisa had joined forces and were attacking Brian about the right and wrong ways to seek God’s forgiveness and I’m sitting there thinking, “Cinn doesn’t even BELIEVE in God, why is she doing this?” Cinn and Brian had never gotten along. From the very beginning of my friendship with Cinn, when she fooled me into believing she had a brain tumor (oh, is THAT a story for a rainy day!), Brian was 100% against it. “I just think it’s weird that you met her in some creepy gothic chatroom and that she has an expiration date on her life that’s fast approaching,” he explained one day, which of course made me want to meet her all the more. Brian’s instincts have pretty much been spot-on about everyone who has touched my life in one way or another, but taking his advice would be too easy, and I prefer long, drawn-out, painful bouts of drama.
So no, Brian and Cinn were never able to sit in the same room, breathing the same air, without firing verbal cannons at one another.
Cinn had backed Brian up against a wall with her religious crusade, insistent on tripping him up so she could accuse him of being a bad seminarian, a heathen, I don’t fucking know. But it was working, and he was getting visibly upset that she wouldn’t leave him alone, and every one in the room was silent and bristling uncomfortably.
I stood up and left. Left my own apartment, while my own party was going on. I bolted out the door, flung myself in the front seat of my good old Eagle Talon, and bawled against the steering wheel. Sure I was 19 years old, but you better believe I’d take the same route if it happened again tonight.
Cinn came out to do what she does best: cleaning up the mess she made in a way that made me forget she made the mess in the first place and instead was a really great friend who just took care of me. Except I wouldn’t unlock the door. I asked her to please leave, which sounds much less polite when it comes out as a hysterical shriek and served on a platter of obscenities and death threats.
Jeff came out next. For him, I unlocked the door. We sat together in the dark, listening to synthpop, until my breathing lost the I’ve-just-been-crying stutter and I felt calm enough to go back inside and face the music.
I felt guilty about leaving Giacomo in there with all the flared tempers and awkward silences, but was pleased to see that he was doing card tricks for everyone. With Cinn gone, everyone was able to relax, enjoy the food, and get to know Giacomo, who ended up being a really cool guy. Before he left, he said, “Let’s do this again soon, just maybe without that red-haired chick.”
I agreed, and I genuinely meant it, but the trauma of that night got the best of me and I never did meet up with Giacomo again.
Nor did I ever wear that pink skirt again.