The last time I attended an official office party, I was released the next day.
That's so vague. I was fired.
I could have offered the lame excuse that the punch was spiked. Or that I thought it was reefer, when it was Thai sticks. Or that I hadn't been that out of control. Fact was, I didn't know. I couldn't remember.
My brain was an ash cloud.
That was years ago. I was younger. Reckless.
Ever since, I wasn't one to party, hang, or chill with coworkers. I lunched with everyone, never cared where we went. Correction, I adamantly refused to dine at the nearby Chinese food poisoner. Poodle with noodle, you like, indeed. Most of us drove to Mexican cafes or burger joints. Given the choice, I opted for Kincaid's, in a class by itself. I could always get Pat or Greg to accompany me.
Yet going clubbing or parties? No. I saw coworkers eight hours a day. More than enough. Listened daily to tales of hangovers, drugged amnesia, bed bouncing. Experiences fresh to them, reruns for me. After hours would offer the same, louder. Plus, I was about ten years older. Old guy at the club. Most of my coworkers still kept that hopeful optimism consistent with young people. I was terribly cynical, and had been so since I was thirteen. So, I politely declined or simply ignored requests for after hours activities which my colleagues graciously, consistently, invited me to.
That meant I tried not to visit homes or apartments, either.
At least I tried not to ...
"Do me a favor and run this by Pat's house on your way home."
The Boss waved some papers at me.
I stood next to my box, looking for some notes. I would be clocking out in fifteen minutes.
"What do you have?" I asked.
"Insurance forms. They have to be signed today and sent off tonight. John will swing by her house at 7:00 and pick them up."
Why couldn't she just drive herself, I wondered. I took the forms without a word.
"What's her address?"
He told me. Pat lived one block off my route home. No problem.
" ... the kitchen, don't look. I still have dishes. The room needs repainting."
Pat was giving me the obligatory tour of the casa.
" ... Dining area ... "
Everything looked nice. Orderly. Pat did well with her budget, and with two sons.
" ... and The Magic Kingdom."
What on God's earth ...
An entire room had been devoted to Mickey Mouse. Posters, framed pictures. Dolls, inflatable stand-ups, cardboard stand-ups, statues. Several sets of mouse ears for humans to wear. I couldn't help myself,
"Do you make guys wear the ears to enhance the romance?"
There was more. A Mickey wigwam, big enough for three children, a mouse rocket ship, rocking chair, clock. Three clocks. Three Mickey Mouse clocks.
"So, you got any Minnie Mouse items with this -- "
"I don't care for Minnie," Pat interrupted. "She's not ... my favorite."
How could such a mouse fan not like Minnie? I'm sure Pat had her reasons.
Certainly not competition. I mean ... for a shrill voiced, big eared, cartoon figure?
"Hmm, how about Morty? Mickey's so-called nephew," I made quote marks in the air.
Pat may have had a lot of "favorites," dead musicians, select coworkers, but one favorite towered above all others. The cartoon rodent.
The Magic Kingdom was beyond belief. Jeez, forget the Magic. This was Mouse Lair. Curtains, wallpaper, throw rugs, pillows. Books, comic books, magazines. Trash can, fake phone, pails, lunchboxes, silverware. A music player.
"Don't tell me, this plays -- "
Great. Now the Mouse Lair echoed with annoying children. Singing Disneyland crapola. Piercing rugrats were hard to tune out. Pat turned the volume louder. I thought she was getting even for a lot of my bad behavior. Women never forget anything.
"Is that a Mickey Mouse ashtray?"
"Do you have a Mickey condom dispenser?"
"What is that, a dollhouse?"
"No!" Pat reached inside the four foot house and withdrew some figures. "It's a puppet theater!"
"No way!" I laughed out loud. That had to be one of the funniest things I'd ever seen.
"And do you still have puppet shows with them?"
Pat blushed and dropped her head.
"Yeah, get that video cam going and Mickey recites Hamlet. Or Dashiell Hammett! Mickey, Rat Detective. Or Westerns. Mickey On the Mesquite. Naw, that sounds like barbeque. Sure you don't have a Minnie Mouse for the saloon scene?"
"Well, when cowpokes ride into town, they're usually thirsty and -- "
"Stop! Out! I don't want to think -- "
"But where do you think Morty came from?"
"I'm not listening." And she began singing the Mickey Mouse theme. Loud. Pat sang a trifle off key, and she was louder than those damn kids, still squealing from that jambox.