today, we have it.
Austin is back in the city, so I buy 100 glow sticks from Amazon, and then I go to the corner market and fill a cart with mango seltzers and tortilla chips and salsa and cheese dip. I sketch up a poster with a gold, swirly font: Return of the King. Austin says, wow, that’s embarrassing.
At 7 pm, Morgan arrives with her new dog and her new man.
At 7:15 pm, Henry arrives, and we forget that it’s been over a year since we’ve last seen him. It’s right back to where we left. It’s fuck off and bloody joking and remember that one time you thought condoms came pre-inflated?
At 7:30 pm, dinner arrives. We eat chicken salads and fries out of cardboard takeaway boxes. Mine’s covered in cheese, so I end up giving it to Adam. Hannah spoons half of her salad into a bowl for me, simply because she’s like that.
Adam tries to teach us Korean Drinking Games around the kitchen counter. We make it through one round of Chicken-Egg-Roll and half a round of Baskin-Robbins when Kira says she’s so over it. She’s hot enough to incite mutiny on her side of the table. They take photos on Austin’s polaroid camera. All photos come out blurry in the end. That’s what you call poetry.
At 8:12 pm, having failed to re-capture the crowd, Adam says, fuck it, let’s just get hammered. Everyone grabs cans and cups and we parade down the stairs and out to the backyard. I mean, really, can you blame us? It’s been a long year. We’ve been alone and we’ve been lonely, and we’ve been in Kauai and Santa Rosa and San Jose and here at home, and it simply hasn’t been the same, but now it is. It is the same, but different. It is old times, but better. Better because it’s not some distant, yellow memory of moments we missed and wished we had back. Now, we have it. And we are ready, we’re all so fucking ready, to celebrate.
Game: Rage Cage. Folding table: assembled. Cups: also assembled. Henry’s cooler: filled with enough seltzer to drown a shark. And sharks breathe water. Think about that one for a second. I somehow land between Austin and Henry. A great place to be if you want to lose. By the end of that first round of Rage Cage, I am up to my eyeballs in seltzer. When I turn, the room turns with me.
You fuckers, I say. Austin says, cry me a river. Henry says, you’re up again!
We play Rage Cage until Adam gets the bitch cup twice, and it is extra disgusting the second time because Morgan’s new man pours half a shot of tequila in with the seltzer. Adam looks like he’ll die (he lives nonetheless). Someone turns the music up, and the group dissolves around the yard. Austin plays a song. I can’t remember the name of it right now. It’s one of those songs that you know when you hear it. Austin and I are dancing and running around. We’re cracking open seltzers and singing and laughing, and the air is nearly-midnight and freezing, but we leave them open.
Hannah sits on top of one of the stone lions and I take a million photos of her and we can’t actually see the photos, because we’re laughing so hard that we’re crying. Austin draws on the walls with a permanent marker. He scribbles smiley faces and love always wins. Morgan and Kira cry in the bathroom, which isn’t surprising. Every party needs at least one girl in tears. It’s the rule. Morgan and Kira get over it eventually, I think. I don’t really know. I lose track of them. I lose track of most everyone at some point.
At 11:42 pm, I’m standing with Henry and he’s talking to me about how cold it can get in Alaska and about soulmates and wingardium leviosa, and how that means more than most things do. I tell him how it has to be magic — life, I mean. Magic or nothing, I say. He says, I’ll be around more often. He says, I’ll send you this video in Super 8. He says, I’m fucking starving, can we get pizza?
At 12:50 am, the pizza arrives, and we eat it on the kitchen floor.
The party is over. Morgan and her new man leave soon after, but, before they do, I apologize to Morgan for letting the drama from a certain unnamed former friend happen a few years ago, and she says that she doesn’t even think about it anymore, which feels good to hear. Kira calls an uber. Hannah calls her boyfriend. We tell Adam that we’ll try Korean Drinking Games again one day. He goes to bed, still highly disgruntled about the whole thing. I’m in the kitchen, slamming back a packet of Emergen-C, because I’m already hungover. Austin and Henry laugh at me. Fuckers.
The next morning, we’ll drive through the fog. We’ll talk about how the Cliff House has been abandoned, we’ll pick up breakfast sandwiches from the bakery on Balboa. We’ll talk about forever ago. We’ll sit on the couch and watch sunlight beat back the fog, back over the bridge. We’ll make more coffee. Adam will say he didn’t even drink that much. Austin will fall asleep on my shoulder. Henry will leave his jumper.
Austin is back in the city, so we spend the day watching Nailed It on the couch and ordering takeout and walking on the beach with the wind at our backs. I can’t help but feel the possibility of beautiful things everywhere. It rides on the waves and the wind and pushes through and around me. Today, we have it. Nothing changes and everything does. That’s the magic.
Taylor Nam is an optimist and a doer. She has been previously published in Passengers Journal. In 2017, she graduated from the University of San Francisco MFA program. In addition to writing short stories, Taylor spends all her free time outside with her small dog named Leo.