The following story was written for the Furious Fiction contest for June 2019.
The guidelines were as follows:
'Near-record entries came flooding in for June’s Furious Fiction this month (more than 1000 stories across the weekend!) – which means our fans well and truly came to the PARTY. We put that word in caps just then for a reason – because that played a big part(y) in this month’s criteria…
This was what was required for JUNE:
The story had to take place at a PARTY of some kind.
The story had to include a BUTTON.
The story had to include the following sentence (which was to be completed with one or more words): The air was thick with _______.
The air was thick with parties of all shapes and sizes – political parties, divorce parties, search parties, birthday parties and many more crazier still. Buttons were pushed, they popped loose and they were stitched on. It was a fun set of prompts, and the quality of the stories reflected that.'
By S. W. Stribling
The party was over. The party had been over, but Balu and I were still there drinking what was left of the last bottle of whiskey as we sat on my patio and watched the sun come up.
The party was over and it was time for the comedown. I could feel it coming and welcomed the familiarity. The smell. The feel. The taste. The air was thick with nostalgia and anxiety.
‘Love is hell. Love is shit.’ Balu told me.
‘Why is pain always there?’ He said.
‘Too much expectation.’ I said. ‘You should avoid it.’
‘And you avoid it?’ He said.
‘Yep.’ I said. ‘More and more, I expect less and less.’
‘And I bet you get less and less.’
I pulled the bottle towards me and thought about his story and disappointment. My average relationship only lasted about 2 and a half years. With my time fighting wars, failed attempts at civilian employment, alcoholism, and my own inherent faults, I think I’ve done pretty well. I wasn’t sure if lowering my expectations before could have made the other loves lasted longer. Maybe not, maybe it was their expectations on me. But now I had few expectations. Expectations that could easily be lost in the era of Romantic expectations.
I liked sleeping and waking up against the body I’ve come to know. I liked seeing how well the pictures turned out. I liked her scrunchies wrapped around every doorknob and faucet. I liked walking into the grocery store together. I liked to watch her chop vegetables while I put them in the pan. I liked when we would light cigarettes together and talk about things, sometimes with a silence falling in between smiles.
It’s not to say I didn’t hate the insane and stupid fights which always occurred. I hated myself even more in those times when I was incapable of giving anything and I would understand nothing. So maybe love was pain. Being alone often felt good. But there is a mysterious warmth in not being alone. If only there were a button you could push to stop time and be alone for a little while. Just for a little while. Just enough to make a man appreciate what he has.
I looked over at my friend, pondering his pain, and remembered being single and on the make. I had been lucky. Not lucky in life. But lucky with women. But when you figure out you can get laid easily, you find you don’t really need to. One woman was all a man really needed: one toilet, one shower, one set of thoughts, one set of feelings. You don’t need to go find a different mix every night.
As I sat there and watched the sun rise higher and touch on the first hanging wall plant, I looked again at my friend. He would be all right. I would be all right.
I have a garden now. She planted it. I water it.