An annual tradition in HomeTown is the Boxing Night Extravaganza. The various people home for the holidays all gather at the local pub early in the evening, generally heading down to the local "nightclub" (I use this word loosely) after a sufficient buzz has been accomplished.
This year I again find myself the recipient of multiple phone calls in the days and hours approaching Boxing Night. "What's going on tonight?" "Are we meeting before?" "Is so-and-so coming?" "Can I crash on your parents' floor?"
In high school, I was the resident co-ordinator, playing at being a social butterfly, knowing where the party was at, and offering up a sleeping bag and floor space to anyone without a ride home or too drunk to drive afterwards. It's a role I deliberately eschewed when I moved away, ricocheting into the opposite "going with the flow" orientation, as it gets exhausting serving as everyone's planning middle man. However, going home is like a time machine, where everyone treats you a little like your 18-year old self-- and, well, my 18-year old self was the party go-to girl, so my fate is sealed for the time being.
The first step of Boxing Night, though, is not pre-drinking and planning a meeting place. It is deciding what to wear. This is of the utmost importance, considering you are most likely to run into at least one of each the following: ex-boyfriend, ex-crush, and former stalker. As such, you need to look good. Very good. However, HomeTown is also a place where most people wear winter gear to the bar on a Friday night, which means you can't look too done up-- because then you are "too big city", and thus likely to be shunned. I was once deemed to have turned big city because my earrings were too big. This means that a delicate balance needs to be struck.
Deliberately casual yet coordinated, then the pre-drinking begins, as people arrive and squish into my bedroom, like old time sake. I have not drank on my bed in a long time, considering I have a living room and coasters now. We have taken a bit of a step up, though, drinking store bought wine and fancy mixed drinks, rather than whatever beer comes in an 8-pack or whatever homemade wine we could scam.
A little more nostalgia hits as we drive downtown, too many people in one car. Like old times, I am the one crammed on a friend's lap, my head grazing the roof. We teeter on icy sidewalks, and make our way into the pub around 7:45. There are already no tables, so we claim the corner by the foozball table as our own. My phone buzzes near constantly, as more people announce their upcoming arrivals. We all hug and summarize our lives in response to the countless times we are asked "What have you been up to over the past year?" I don't mind this question quite so much as the "How much more school do you have left?" or the much more direct "Aren't you done school yet?"
I notice this year that I don't know a good third of the bar like I used to. It occurs to me that coming back to HomeTown is no longer everyone's first priority over the holidays. People have their "new" families-- spouses, children, in-laws, or jobs that do not halt because of the significance of a particular day. Perhaps this is another one of the realities that comes along with the fact that it is my (yikes yikes yikes) ten year high school reunion this summer, and I am, in fact, getting old.
I stand by our territory of the foozball table and a guy of about 19 tries to start chatting me up. As he is getting his game on, and I try not to giggle too much, a friend hands me a drink. It is wet on the outside, as he has just carried up an enormous round from the bar, and seems to have spilled a little. Just as it occurs to 19-year old to ask me my name, the drink slides out of my hands and shatters to the floor. He actually backs away slowly. I go over to my friends, and laugh that I have inadvertently found the easiest way to get rid of a guy.
Except he comes back and tries again. Apparently he mistook my clumsiness as intoxication and figured he still had a shot. And tries to impress me by telling me all about the first year psychology course he had taken. Yes, indeed, guys, the way to impress the woman completing her PhD in psychology? Show her how much you know about psychology from your first year. Educate me, baby! Of course, this was after he pretended to run away when he first heard what I studied.
Of course, I run into the checklist of people, including exes, former crushes, and random people I hadn't thought about in years. There is also a guy I went to elementary school inexplicably wearing a polar bear costume. I joke with a friend that I just needed an awkward former drunken make-out partner to make the night complete.
It is soon after that I notice the Ex's best friend, who I have previously deemed ABF (Alcoholic Best Friend) at the bar. The vodka perhaps artificially enhancing my nostalgia, I go over to say hi. He is drunk and ecstatic. The first thing out of his mouth is the comment I've already recounted below about the Ex needing me more than ever. He then tells me he is buying me a drink, despite my claims that I am not in the mood for double fisting, as I have a fresh drink in hand. He buys me one anyways, and then proceeds to pour out his heart about his girl troubles, disregarding the fact that we haven't seen each other in two and a half years. He doesn't ask me a thing about myself, rather begging me for detailed plans of action about what he should say to his ex-girlfriend and current crush. As my friends come to extricate me from the situation, he slurs "Please just give me a few minutes with her. I promise I'm not trying to molest her. She's been my counselor for years."
A few minutes to closing time, we exit the bar. There is no hope of getting a taxi any time in the next hour, given you can count the number of taxis in the town on one hand. Two of us walk to the front door of another bar, where people have chosen to go instead of paying the unheard of $10 cover charge at the "nightclub". Seven of us set to walking up the enormous hill home.
Snow is tumbling from the sky, as we walk down the middle of the empty street. Despite the drunken cries around, it is strangely peaceful, as though the snow muffles it from our ears. We walk a half block backwards, so we can watch the snow sprinkling on the view below. As we make it to one person's destination, someone grabs a six-pack of beer, and someone else two inner tubes. We spin and slide down the steep street on the inflated rubber, a lone car beeping its horn at us as we skim by, our hair frosted in snow. I decide at this moment, despite my instincts earlier in the night, that I refuse to be too old for this.