Uptown Rantz

Don't Wanna Be No Uptown Fool

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now: Jeanine’s Party

I decide to go, if only to show off my new haircut – it looks just like the Vampire Weekend drummer’s coif. These types of haircuts grow out fast, so I had better take advantage of this window of opportunity. Jeanine’s second text tells me to bring my IPOD because she left hers at work. Her first text told me not to bring Cheney.

As I approach the front door, I can see human silhouettes through the curtains and hear conversations about the Twins. There is a now-faded Christmas wreath on the front door, and I quietly turn the doorknob. I step inside and every possible light in the house is on. No one notices me until Jeanine spots me from the kitchen and belts out a, “Heeeeeeey!!! You made it!” Heads turn as I hug Jeanine with one arm while my other arm holds the twelve pack of Shiner Bock I bought with me.

Then Jeanine does what I was afraid she was going to do – she announces me. “Everybody, this is my friend Kilby and he’s from Austin, Texas.” Some people nod their heads as they raise their eyebrows like I just did something to impress them. I nervously give a hook’em horns sign with my left hand and everyone goes back to what they were doing. I put my IPOD in the Bose sound dock and 12:51 by The Strokes makes me feel a little more at home.

No matter the time of year, Jeanine’s parties always have the feel of a Super Bowl party – people standing around a too-clean Apple Valley townhome – mostly couples holding mostly green beer bottles. A table of cheeses, veggies and dips glistens under the overhead kitchen lights. Many of the men are dads, which means they look about five years older than their actual age. Many of the women are moms, which means they look about 10 years older than their actual age.

Jeanine is the only person I really know, so I stay near her in the kitchen. Through the window, I see another lone silhouette on the patio…a female with hair down to the middle of her back and smoke coming from her mouth. Jeanine says it’s her younger sister, Melissa, and I can’t believe I’ve never met her in the almost five years I’ve known Jeanine. I’ve seen her sister’s name in group e-mails and I’ve seen her pretty picture on Jeanine’s Facebook profile. Jeanine says that I should go introduce myself.

The patio door makes a smooth gliding sound and I step outside into the mild chill. Before I can say anything she says, “Are you Kilby from Austin, Texas?”

“You heard your sister announce me?”

“I heard through the patio door and the person I was talking to on the phone at the time heard as well,” she says and then puts the cigarette back in her mouth while looking at me for a reply. I don’t mind that she smokes because she does it in cool Kate Moss-way, and not in a NASCAR fan-way. She doesn’t squint her eyes as she takes a drag like a lot of smokers tend to do. She keeps her eyes open and raises her left eyebrow every time she takes a puff. I make a mental note to buy some ashtrays for my house the next time I’m at Target.

“Oh, tell your boyfriend I said ‘hi’ if he calls back.”

“I don’t have a boyfriend.” She says it in a confident, shameless manner and without the slightest hint of insecurity. Most girls would say that while looking at their shoes. Her green eyes look directly at mine when she said it.

“Oh, do you think we’d fight a lot if WE dated?” I ask, not even thinking that it’s a line I’ve used since college to gauge a girl’s level of interest.

“You would have to get used to losing every fight,” and she puts the cigarette out in a planter, leaving the butt sticking out of the dirt.

As we continue talking, I realized that for the first time in I can’t remember, I’m not faking a smile. The smile starts at my sternum – right where someone would put their palm when giving chest compressions. It radiates up the center of my chest and around both sides of my neck.  It goes behind my neck and creeps out from behind both ears before pulling on the corners of my mouth.

For the next 90 minutes, we stay on the patio and I don’t even notice how chilly it seems to have gotten. Neither does she. At one point, Jeanine peeks at us through the kitchen window and gives me the thumbs-up sign and a smile. This is why she pestered me to show-up tonight and why she didn’t want me to bring Cheney. Before we part, Melissa asks for my number and puts it in her Iphone right in front of me.

I can hear the little clicks of the keypad as she inputs my number in her phone. At the same time, I can see Amanda getting smaller and smaller in my mental rear-view mirror. She’s shrinking until I see her disappear for good. She’s gone and so are the days of opening my inbox with a sliver of hope that there will be an e-mail from her.

When I get home, I walk straight to the basement and grab the Zappos box from the shelf next to the dryer. It holds Amanda’s miscellaneous items that she never bothered to come and pick-up:

A tin of Burt’s Bees hand cream, the $30.00 Timex Indiglo that she wore to bed so she wouldn’t have to sit up in bed to look at the nightstand alarm clock, a manicure kit, one pink Under Armour brand wrist band, an empty thumb drive and a pair of sunglasses that may or may not be expensive.

I walk through my back yard and toss the box in the gray City of Minneapolis garbage can in the alley. I’m going to Target in the morning to buy some ashtrays.

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