A Christmas Story

(From time to time I write little stories that have nothing to do with programming or technology; this is one of those stories. So, if you’re only here for the technology stuff, you’ll want to skip this one.)

I’m standing in the kitchen of a friend’s house at a Christmas party, making myself a drink while talking to a friend named Angie. This was nothing unusual; she and I were always talking about something. We became friends during our last year in high school, and we’ve been talking every since.

In retrospect it’s obvious that I have feelings for her, but I guess you could say that I didn’t appreciate her back then. After high school my ambition took me away to college, and then to a series of jobs in different states. By the time I decided to move back home, she was married and had two young children.

While we talked all the time, this kitchen conversation was unusual. I don’t remember how it started, but Angie did ask me about something I rarely talk about: my parents getting divorced in high school.

She asked how I felt about that situation, and I told her, “I didn’t know you when they first separated, but I hated it. It ruined everything. My sisters stayed with my mom, and for some reason I moved in with dad and The Witch. At every holiday I had to go to two parties, including meeting The Witch’s family. They lived in a different town, so they gave me her car as part of the deal to move in with them, so I could stay in the same high school. You know, I don’t know what I was thinking, but some mornings I drove to school as fast as that car would go, almost 100 mph. I guess it was anger,” I said, reliving the emotions as I spoke.

As I finished saying that, Angie’s husband Tom and a few other people walked in, so I didn’t get to ask Angie why she asked about that.

With the new group in the kitchen, the conversation quickly changed to things I wasn’t interested in, so I walked out to the living room and plopped down on a couch next to my buddy, Joe. Unlike Angie, I can sit next to Joe and we don’t have to say a thing.

Immediately Joe says, “You do realize that every time you’re alone with Angie, Tom comes over and joins you guys, right?”

“What?”

“You heard what I said.”

“Heard, yes. Believe, no.”

“Look, man,” he says, “the kitchen’s clearing out again. Give it a minute, and then go walk into the kitchen and pour yourself a drink ...”

I hold up my glass to argue that I just poured a full drink, and Joe takes that opportunity to take it away from me.

“Go pour yourself a drink,” he continues, “and if you’re alone, I’ll bet you $20 that within five minutes Angie will join you.” He pauses as he sips my drink. “And I’ll further bet that whatever Tom is doing, he’ll come join the two of you in less than five minutes after that.”

I look at him, frowning. I don’t like what he’s saying. “You’re crazy,” I say.

“And just to make it interesting,” he says, trying to get animated while he’s sunk in an overstuffed couch, “I’ll further bet that if you and Angie are alone when Tom walks in, he’ll walk up and wrap his arms around her and hug her from behind.”

“You really are crazy,” I say. “Or drunk. Probably both.”

“Mmm, tasty beverage,” he says, sipping again from my now-former glass.

“Glad you’re enjoying it.”

“It’s a bet, then?”, he asks. “The whole thing,” he says, waving at me and then the kitchen.

I give it a moment, looking around at the crowd. I’m bored. The only people I really enjoy talking to are Joe and Angie. I look over and see the kitchen has cleared out. I would like another chance at a drink. What the heck. “Alright, it’s a bet,” I say.

Joe’s in the middle of another sip as I get up, so he just gives me a thumbs-up sign. As I’m walking to the kitchen he calls out loudly, “Twenty bucks.” I give him the finger behind my back without looking back at him.

I don’t wear a watch, so as I enter the kitchen I set a timer on my phone just for grins. As I put the phone back in my jacket pocket, I’m looking forward to showing the result to Joe when I win the bet.

In the kitchen I start to make another drink, but I keep my back to the party. I don’t want to look at Joe, and I’m also hoping that nobody will see me if my back is to them. As I look around the kitchen I don’t see any more glasses, so I grab a plastic cup and pretend to examine the drink possibilities for a few moments. Of course I’m going to make another margarita on the rocks, but I do have to drag this out for five minutes.

As I’m doing this, Angie walks into the kitchen and asks, “Hey, thirsty, what happened to your last drink?”

I point to Joe on the couch, and he raises my glass as if toasting us, then drinks from it. “Joe decided it was his.” I pause as it hits me that she’s here, in the kitchen. I doubt that two minutes have gone by. “I’m pretty sure he’s going to be needing a ride home,” I manage to get out, flustered by my thought. I think about the timer still running on my phone, and when I do that I accidentally drop some ice on the floor.

“You okay there?”, she asks as we both bend down to pick the pieces up off the floor. “Maybe we need to cut you off,” she smiles.

“No, yeah, uh, I’m fine,” I say, suddenly nervous with a woman I’ve never been nervous with before in my life. “Joe just has me a little distracted.” We stand up and she hands me the pieces she picked up, and I turn and throw hers and mine in the sink.

I grab a towel to wipe off my hands, and as I turn to give it to her I see Tom walk into the kitchen from behind her. He reaches around and wraps his arms around her from behind, puts his head on her right shoulder and asks me, “Didn’t you already have a drink going?”

Angie and I simultaneously point to Joe on the couch, who again raises my glass to give us a toast. This time he also points to the watch on his wrist with his other hand, and then rubs his fingers together against his thumb in a “Show me the money” signal.

“What’s he doing, now?”, Angie asks.

“He’s drunk,” I say. “Just ignore him. Better yet, forget this drink,” I say, throwing the contents in the sink and throwing the cup in the garbage. “I’m going to get him home. You guys have a good night. Merry Christmas.”

I don’t wait for their reply as I walk out of the kitchen and over to Joe, who starts making the “money” sign again.

“Let’s get the hell out of here,” I say.

“C’mon, man, you owe me $20. That was some deep shit. Pay up. Pay up, man!”

I reach into my wallet, pull out a twenty, slap it into his hand, and say, “Come on, let’s go get drunk somewhere else.”

“Chill, man,” he says. “Holiday spirits and all that.”

“I hate the fucking holidays. C’mon, let’s get out of here. I’m buying.”

“Now you’re talking. Hey, man, wait for me.”

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