Party Demon
By Serge Astapkov
(Illustrated by LK Shaw)

Someone passed Jesse a small bowl packed with marijuana. Jesse smoked from it and took a sip from a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon. "Things are getting real," Jesse thought as he checked his iPhone, "like I'm possessed by some kind of partying demon. I need to drink more because I feel alone right now." There was a text from a high school friend Jesse had only spoken to a handful of times in the past five years that said "you have to come to this event." A woman in front of Jesse wore leopard print pants and was in her thirties. She said "anyone who wants to smoke needs to climb out of my bedroom window onto the fire escape." More people entered the apartment and Jesse climbed out of this woman's bedroom window and smoked a cigarette on her fire escape with Derek, the boy who brought him to the party. They talked about things and Jesse took pictures of trees and things and people on the sidewalk with his phone and put them on Instagram. In the crowded living room Jesse talked to two people who he vaguely knew from before. He felt shy. He smoked another cigarette with a boy in a leather coat and they talked about writing and about ambition. The boy said "if you live in New York, you should be ambitious." Jesse thought, "I can't tell if I think this person is cool or if I think this person is a douchebag. It's like, his accent, or something. I want to get out of here now. I feel alone. I don't even know what street I'm on. I think I'm near Grand. I don't know how to get to Manhattan from here."

Jesse texted back, "i'm in the area, where is this event?"
Jesse's friend from high school texted back the name of a bar. Jesse looked up the bar on the internet on his phone and then walked to the bar. Jesse's friend from high school sent a text saying another friend of Jesse's from high school said, "get here fast."

The bar was on 40th street near 5th Avenue had a VIP room guarded by two bouncers. People from Jesse's grade in high school who he had not talked to in five years passed in and out of the VIP room. Jesse's friends from high school came out of the VIP room and everyone shook hands and sometimes hugged. Then other people Jesse knew came out of the VIP room. They said "we should get drinks" to Jesse and he exchanged numbers with some of them. People from Jesse's high school grade wore chinos and blazers and pastel oxford shirts and topsiders. Most of the people in the bar wore chinos and blazers and pastel oxford shirts and topsiders, including people that Jesse had not gone to high school with. Jesse wore skinny jeans and a military style jacket and a buffalo plaid shirt. Jesse only wore chinos to work and only on Fridays. People who had not been nice to Jesse five years earlier seemed more interested in him than they used to be. Jesse smoked cigarettes with people he did not know smoked cigarettes. "People grow up, I guess," he thought. "I'll probably never see these people again. We don't really 'connect' and we never really did." Jesse imagined scare quotes around the word connect as he thought that phrase. Jesse felt bad for thinking it because he liked his high school friends. "It's not their fault I feel alone around them," Jesse thought, "because I feel alone around almost everyone, probably almost all the time."

Jesse's high school friends told him about how they paid $40 for an open bar that only had beer. They said the open bar sucked and only had weak, cheap beers. They said they felt ripped off. Jesse said, "that really sucks." Jesse thought, "I am drunk and high right now and they aren't." Jesse thought, "they all feel really comfortable around each other. I wonder what that's like."

Jesse was in a train car with people from his school. Some of them were drinking tall cans of Bud Light with Lime and walking around yelling and others were sitting and talking. Jesse wanted to fall asleep. Jesse's friend from high school said something about good gyro places in Boston. Jesse thought about visiting Boston and about falling asleep. "Bed," Jesse thought, "crash my body into my bed. Alone." Jesse said, "it's fucked up that you can't get a good gyro in Boston, man." Jesse was in an SUV with five other people but only briefly. "This isn't fun" Jesse thought. He said "this was fun, you guys." Jesse thought, "this would be more fun if I was still high. Or if I was kissing someone." Someone in the SUV leaned over to someone else in the SUV and asked, "where's your boyfriend? You going to cheat on your boyfriend tonight?"

Jesse drank Pabst Blue Ribbon at a bar. "I didn't do anything I felt good about since that party," Jesse thought, sipping his beer. Two empty cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon and an empty tumbler that had filled with 'house bourbon' two times before this were next to Jesse. "A reminder…" Jesse thought, and began laughing, "of how I put poetic meanings over things like empty drinking glasses. There is a disproportionate number of drinking glasses to socially acceptable amounts of people by these drinking glasses. Too many empty drinks for one person at a bar." Jesse's iPhone vibrated. A text message from Claire said "i'm five minutes away." Jesse stood up and left the bar to smoke a cigarette. Drunk people talked about things next to Jesse. Jesse looked at his shoes. Jesse moved two feet further away from the talking drunk people. Jesse looked back up and saw Claire walking up. Jesse had not met Claire before. Jesse and Claire talked on the internet a lot. Jesse finished his cigarette.

"I made it," Claire said. Claire spoke quickly. "I was at the wrong bar. I was at 142 Mercer. The lady said it was Fish Bar. It smelled like fish. I felt sick. I thought, 'what if Jesse is really "into" fish? what if he really likes fishing?' It smelled so bad. It smelled awful. I felt nauseous. I, like, ordered a drink and then you texted me saying I was at the wrong bar. Oh my God. It smelled so bad in there. I hate fish. My car's right there."

"So like, what do you want to do?" said Jesse.
"I guess, do you want to have a drink here?" said Claire.
"Not really, it's packed and like, I don't know."
"I know some okay bars over by Avenue A. Avenue B. Let's smoke though."
"Let's smoke."

Claire dug into her purse and took out a pack of cigarettes. She opened the pack of cigarettes. There three blunts inside the pack of cigarettes and no cigarettes. "I am really high right now, but let's smoke," Claire said. She lit a blunt. Jesse and Claire walked down 5th Street to the corner and passed the blunt. They turned around at the corner and walked the other way. Claire pointed at a car and said it was her car. Claire put out the half smoked blunt and put it back in the cigarette case with blunts in it. She unlocked the car and Claire and Jesse entered the car. "I feel really lucid even though I am sort of drunk and I just smoked," Jesse thought. "I feel good, she is cute. She's funny because she seems nervous because she talks really quickly."

Claire handed Jesse a GPS and said "put the address in the GPS."
"I don't know the address," Jesse said.
"It's like 100 Avenue A or 200 Avenue A."
"I don't think we need a GPS to get to Avenue A from here. I know how to get to Avenue A."
"No, but like..." Claire said, "the roads. They're one way."
"I know… don't worry… I know..."

Claire drove the car to Avenue A. Claire looked for a parking spot. She said "I want to park near this hydrant I usually park near." Jesse said "Do you think it's a good idea to park near a hydrant?" Claire said "I guess not." Claire drove the car down 6th street, up Avenue B, down 7th Street, down Avenue A, and down 6th Street again. She did this three times. Claire drove the car to First Avenue. Claire drove the car on other streets. "I usually park the car by hydrants and just check on it," Claire said. Jesse said, "if your car gets towed, that would really suck. I don't know if it would even get towed. It might just be a ticket." Claire parked near a hydrant near Tompkins Square Park. Claire and Jesse walked toward a club called Pyramid.

Claire paid her cover and then paid Jesse's cover. Jesse said "thanks."
Claire said "you can buy me a beer later."
There was synthpop playing inside Pyramid. Smoke machines pumped smoke out over the dance floor. Jesse tweeted a photograph of it. He captioned it, "Spooky". Jesse and Claire drank Heinekens. They went downstairs. They watched people dance to new wave. They went back upstairs. They sat on a table by the wall and watched people dance to new wave. Jesse put his hand on the small of Claire's back. The moved to the floor next the dance floor and leaned against the wall and drank beer. They sat on the floor and leaned against the wall and watched people dance.

Claire said "let's go check on my car." They went outside to check on Claire's car. Claire took cigarettes out of her purse and gave one to Jesse and one to herself. Jesse and Claire lit their cigarettes. "It's better to go outside after being in a bar than it is to go inside a bar after being outside," Jesse thought while lighting his cigarette. Claire took the half smoked blunt out of her purse and lit it. They walked to Claire's car. Claire's car was still there. Claire's car did not have a ticket. Claire and Jesse walked back to Pyramid. Claire grabbed Jesse's arm as they walked. "It's so cold," Claire said. "It is," Jesse said. "This seems nice," Jesse thought. They went inside and back downstairs. They sat on the couch. They went into the women's bathroom together to do cocaine. Claire said, "do you have like, keys?"
"Keys?" Jesse said.
"Like, house keys."
Claire and Jesse did cocaine off of Jesse's house keys. "Is it bad that I feel more excited for the cocaine than to connect with a human being?" Jesse thought. They did more cocaine.

Jesse and Claire talked about things really quickly for several minutes and then Jesse kissed Claire. They kissed for a long time and Jesse thought, "this is better than before when I wasn't kissing someone. I feel more excited about this than what I felt excited about before too." Jesse thought, "I haven't kissed anyone in a long time." Jesse thought, "I have actually had sex more recently than I have kissed someone. That's fucked up. Kissing is more intimate than sex." They went to other bars. They did cocaine and they drove around. They stopped in a bar somewhere outside the city to pee.

Jesse got off the subway and walked four blocks. He stopped in a bodega on Flushing Avenue and bought a 12 pack of Modelo. He walked through an alley to the door of the apartment Steven and Derek lived. Steven was on a couch with his girlfriend. Derek drank a white russian and made Jesse a white russian. Peter and someone named Patrick showed up. Patrick told a story about someone named Simon who lived in a high rise waterfront tower in Brooklyn and was rich. Jesse thought, "I want to meet Simon" while taking photographs of things on his iPhone and putting them on Instagram. Jesse thought, "party demon is in the house tonight," and then thought, "everybody… everybody gonna.. somebody call an exorcist." Jesse and Peter smoked a joint and jesse posted a picture of Peter to Instagram and Twitter. Jesse, Pat, and Derek bought more beer. Jesse and Peter smoked another joint. They walked to a food truck and got burritos. Jesse was really high and ate a burrito. Jesse thought, "this is good, I wish Claire was here eating a burrito, though. She doesn't each much. I shouldn't either but it feels so good to eat. I feel less bored and less empty when I eat. I feel even less bored when I'm around her. I feel excited at those times."

Jesse and Claire smoked a joint on the street somewhere in Brooklyn and saw a anti-marijuana picture of a jester with the words "green villain" on it that they thought was funny. They took several photographs of it and put filters on the photographs in Instagram. It was starting to rain. They saw a diner. "Wow, cool, a diner," Claire said. "I think it's a bar, let's go in," Jesse said and they went in. Jesse sat in the diner themed bar with Claire. Jesse took pictures of Claire and put them on Instagram. Jesse thought, "I really like Claire, she is pretty and cool." Jesse and Claire kissed in a cab as it crossed a bridge. Jesse felt okay about himself. Jesse felt temporarily not alone. "I don't know what the opposite feeling of feeling alone is called," Jesse thought, kissing. It never really started to rain.

Jesse and Mark sat on a bus that was driving under the Hudson river. They talked about movies. Mark had just been in a short film that Jesse had seen and enjoyed. Mark invited Jesse to a screening of it. Jesse felt interested in seeing it again on a big screen instead of on Vimeo. Jesse and Mark went up to Martin's apartment. They snorted adderall and smoked marijuana. They watched TV shows. Jesse felt sick and threw up. Jesse did not reach the toilet in time. Jesse's vomit got on the walls and in the sink and on the floor. Jesse let it drip from his mouth because he felt disoriented. Jesse felt alone. Jesse regretted eating old chicken for lunch. Jesse wished Claire was with him in the bathroom. Jesse cleaned up as much of the vomit as he could. Jesse noticed it got on his shoes and on his shirt. Jesse covered his shirt with his cardigan and checked in the mirror to see if the vomit stain was noticeable under his cardigan. Looking in the mirror made Jesse feel more alone than vomiting had made him feel. Jesse thought "I feel so alone and embarrassed, no one else vomits like this but me. I'm so terrible" and left the bathroom. Mark told Jesse hearing him throw up 'shook him up'. Martin laughed. Martin said, "now I have to disinfect my whole bathroom."

Jesse sat in Claire's car. It was raining a lot. The rain was louder than the street noise outside Claire's car. The windows were fogged up. Claire held a key with cocaine on it to Jesse's nose and Jesse sniffed it. "Three, two, one," she had said. Jesse kissed Claire on the lips and then on the neck. Jesse and Claire rolled down the windows to smoke cigarettes. Rain got in the car and the cigarettes got wet. They finished and closed the windows. Jesse felt good. "I have to go home," Jesse thought, "and then I will only feel good for a little while longer, and then I won't feel good again for a few days." Jesse's lips were numb.


serge astapkov lives in new york