Sid cringed at the sight of all the happy partygoers. It was another summer Saturday just made for back yard grilling and drinking and watching all your couple friends enjoy the hell out of each other. It was also the fifth bar-b-que he’d been to this summer that Sid had attended alone. It was getting extremely tedious. He stepped through his friend Craig’s house and stood at the sliding glass doors that looked out toward the rear deck and yard. There were so many people Sid just couldn’t stand and what’s more they were all with someone and had been for a very long time. Sid cleared his throat and put on his party smile and stepped outside. Craig noticed him immediately.
“Hey buddy,” said the host Craig, “how’s it going man. Glad you could make it! But hey, I know it’s a really bummer and that you just got here but I was wondering if you could drive over to the store at the corner and grab a couple bags of ice. I was trying to call you on your way over but you didn’t answer.”
“Yeah, I don’t answer my phone when I’m driving. It isn’t safe,” said Sid.
“Right, of course. But do you mind buddy? I’m really sorry to ask but Karen said she asked Janet and her husband but they had to drop the kids off at Janet’s mothers and it’s just so out of the way and you know...,” said Craig.
Craig stood near the grill, a Kiss Me I’m Important apron tied around his waist, he was balding and fattening, and his arms were akimbo on his hips. His face was pleading and sweating, wrinkled up into a strange worried and constipated ball of red cheeks and tired eyes.
“I don’t mind Craig. I’ll be right back,” said Sid.
He didn’t mind at all actually. As the single guy, nearing 40 without a girlfriend, a wife or kids it was sort of expected that he be the one to get the crappy jobs at parties. Sid had no illusions it would be any other way and he was happy to escape the crowd before they had a chance to judge him. And he knew they judged him anyway. He knew they talked about him when he wasn’t there. He knew they talked about his old girlfriend from 100 years ago and how fun she was and where was she now and how they heard that she was married and living in California. That didn’t bother Sid at all. He didn’t care about that. But still it was nice to escape their opinionated eyes while the sun was still out.
Sid got to his car and drove over to the near-by convenience store. A nagging annoyance was creeping at the back of his neck. There was just something dumb about having a big back yard party and forgetting to buy ice. It wasn’t all that complicated, especially with a store so close by. Craig and Karen just couldn’t be bothered Sid guessed. He grabbed five big bags of ice and dragged them to the front of the store, trying to avoid creating any giant puddles on the floor.
The clerk silently rang up the five bags, helped Sid put them into larger plastic bags and wished Sid a mumbled, “Have a nice day.” Sid dragged the bags out to his car and tossed them in the trunk. A siren wailed in the distance as Sid moved toward his driver’s side door. The wailing sound got closer, followed by the sounds of an ambulance siren and police sirens. Sid looked over his shoulder toward Craig and Karen’s house on their quaint residential block. He found himself imagining the party engulfed in flames and the party guests running around in Craig’s exploded Hell. The Kiss Me I’m Important apron in tatters and flames on the perfectly trimmed grass, now blackened from the heat of the grill’s explosion.
The ambulance and Fire engine passed the store and kept driving down the busy street. It didn’t turn at Craig’s block but kept going. Sid got in his car and started the engine. He drove around the block and parked in a space much further away than his original good spot in front of Craig and Karen’s. He went to the trunk and got the ice and lugged it back toward the house.
“Oh man, thank you so much dude! I really appreciate it,” said Craig as Sid re-appeared in the yard, “Just toss it in those coolers if you could. Thanks!”
Sid nodded and dragged the ice to the coolers and started dumping it in.
“Oh thank you Sid, that was so nice of you,” said Karen. She was holding a large glass of white wine and greeting some other couple that Sid hadn’t seen before.
“Yeah, no problem. My pleasure. Glad to help,” said Sid, but Karen was already back to the new couple, ignoring Sid.
Sid finished with the ice, got a beer and sat down in the first available lawn chair.
“Hey, sorry, I was saving that seat for my wife,” said a random tanned and tall guy.
“Oh, sorry,” said Sid as he bounced back up from the chair.
The guy nodded and Sid wandered over toward the edge of the party. He looked around for a place to smoke, some place in the shade, where the other party goers couldn’t see him. They might have been smokers in their old single lives, but now someone who still smoked on the verge of 40 years old was some sort of pariah. Sid found a spot near the garage and lit his cigarette. He listened to the random conversations of the 30 odd people present, crammed into Craig and Karen’s hip backyard.
“Oh my god, is someone smoking? Ugh,” said a woman’s voice.
“Ugh, who still smokes,” asked another woman.
Sid sighed and tossed the cigarette into the alley. He put on his most amiable face and returned to the slowly gathering party horde.