One night I threw a guy off a roof. There was this party. 100 Beers of Solitude. I was invited by someone I thought was my soulmate but was really more a fair weather friend. I was blind at the time, I admit it. She was dating this woman from the fucking Russian River the whole time. The Russian River! We rented canoes there. We got drunk, drove up to Monte Rio and tried to paddle to where they burn the big owl—you know, the illuminati and shit. She was also banging a couple other dudes — one of them my friend whom I introduced her to at another stupid book theme party. There were signs, for sure, but I ignored them. I see them now. She didn’t end up at this party so I can’t really say it’s her fault—only she invited me and never showed up, which put me off in a weird way, weirder than my norm, which resulted in this millionaire’s son getting thrown off a 4th story apartment building and onto his head. I’ll get to it. Trust me.
So you can’t talk at this party til everyone at the party collectively drinks 100 beers. 100 years, 100 beers. Like the book. So after rehearsal (some play I starved myself half to death for—for free, my last free play) we threw on some glitter, drank tequila out of a prop flask and headed over, the whole time talking about how much better we are at acting than anyone on Broadway. I’ve never seen Broadway but I’m pretty sure this is true because confidence, baby. So I got to the door first because my friends stopped off at the corner for cigarettes, which was good cuz I was feeling low and not real generous. I rang the doorbell but couldn’t hear the chime so wasn’t sure if anyone was coming down. I got right into the peephole, pressing my eye to the glass. Nothing to see, just curtain—but that’s when the door came open. And this 30 year old steampunk is standing there barefoot in black nail polish and little gym shorts but no shirt on.
“Are you the guy?” he asks.
“Oh, no. I’m here for the party.”
“Oh. Sorry. The way you were standing—come on in!”
And up the stairs, bounding three at a time, he goes, shedding flakes of black nail polish behind him and ever-so-softly letting out a fart at the top of the landing, which I pretend not to notice—but hold my breath until I pass through—the whole time him leading me to where I am already headed and laughing about what a shame it is that I wasn’t the person he’s looking for but that I should consider a career in customer service nonetheless because “that way you were standing—practically eye fucking me for a tip” (what?) and I am really starting to hate this guy, when he stops suddenly, panting.
“I live here, on the third floor. The party is upstairs, on the fourth floor.”
“Oh,” I say. “So it’s a party within a party?”
Which is a theater kid joke that didn’t take because he says, “I don’t think you like me…”
To which I play near perfectly aloof — “I don’t like you?”
Of course I don’t say what I’m really thinking, “I think you’re a wash” which I don’t say, but should, cuz as Stanford Meisner once said at the actor’s studio to Meryl Streep when she wouldn’t take a real shit onstage — “fuck polite.” We don’t say anything else, just wait when we arrive at the door to the fourth floor, and this boy genius is just silently tapping at the door with a limp fist.
“It’s no talking, not no knocking,” I say (kinda angry) to which he giggles and starts knocking faster but not any louder. Finally, someone comes down. Not because of the knocking, but because they were leaving.
“It sucks up there,” she says, through the rasp of an unpracticed voice, and suddenly I wish I was going where she was going.
“Where you going?” I say.
“Uh…” she says and nothing else, which makes me feel like a real creep.
“Bon voyage,” the steampunk whispers, stupidly, as he closes the door behind me. And my friends who went to get the cigarettes never came. I found out later they were deterred by the steampunk: “I’m closing the portal,” he told them after learning they didn’t have his weed either.
So there I’m at the big party. The rules are you can’t talk until you build a staff of cans 10 cans high. At 10 cans you become the wisest wizard and can speak the holy truth from the mountain or some bullshit—until some other wizard stacks 11 cans and so on. Once 100 beers are drunk, everyone can talk. There are seven people there, none of whom I know. But the party is almost half-over. 56 cans to go. Some dude, a guy I’ll call “Rice” because something stupid he said about eating rice patties instead of bread, has 9 cans stacked. This girl, I’ll call her “Maggie” because she looks like a farmer, has 7. They were the real show for wisest wizard. Besides a couple of 4s chugging away in the wings, everyone else is hanging with one or two.
Already I can’t stand this not talking and want to get this show on the road.
I wave to the room—the stranger, a new person—and break into two beers, chugging both. I crack a third (and when no one’s looking) pour half of it in the toilet so I can start a fourth. The Rice kid gets to ten as I’m climbing to five so he can start talking. And damn, can this kid talk about fucking nothing. His dad is a google exec and worth millions so all he can really talk about is club soccer and how difficult it is to find non-GMO foods at the dorms.
I’m smoking a cigarette on the fire escape with Maggie, the farmer, when he comes up guns blazing: “Can I have a drag of your cigarette? ….I’ll take your silence as an affirmation” and grabs it from me. I light another, but when he’s done with my old one, he takes that too. I try to ditch so I can pour a couple more beers down the toilet but he blocks the window, rocking wildly:
“…so I eat off-campus, farmer’s markets, some things from Whole Foods” like he’s the fucking Jaime Oliver of UC Berkeley— “Don’t do Bikram Yoga on an empty stomach” and “the Dali Llama’s a sellout, y’know” and “human societies are really just networks of data” and “running barefoot on the grass ten minutes a day can help a sprained foot.”
I break my silence. “That makes sense. I used to run barefoot in LA to curb my depression.”
“In LA?” he guffaws, “Like, what—on the trash?”
“I used to run the ravines on the LA River,” I say, quite sincerely, “I think the trash is beautiful.”
“So, are we talking now?” says Maggie.
“I am,” says Rice, “you all still have beers to drink.”
“I’m talking” I say, which causes a stir. People start shushing and shushing back the shushers and it’s getting ugly.
“The LA River. Talk about an oxy-moron,” says Rice.
“Beauty’s in the eye of the beholder—” starts Maggie.
“-of the beholder, yah we get it,” finishes Rice, “We all know.” And with that, he flicks my last cigarette into the air, over the fire escape, and onto the street.
“Go get that,” I say.
“WHAT,” he says.
“Go get it.” I wasn’t fucking playing.
Usually, at this point, one of my friends would have stepped in. I get wild from time to time. Not violent or anything, just wild. Wild ‘cause wildness is what got me this far in life. The wild thing told me to make him go get it. Go get the cigarette. You threw it. What broke-ass litterbug just throws garbage in the street? A piece of garbage—that’s who. Picking up that garbage, tossing him in the street—that was justice.
I dunno. Maybe the beer got me crazy. I poured a lot in the toilet but I drank a lot too. I was off. Maybe it was the whole party was off. A bad transit in the star charts. Mercury retrograde gone wrong. I wasn’t even supposed to be here. Not without Rowena anyway. Not without my friends. If they were here someone would have said, “Hey, hey, buddy, take it easy” and I woulda said “yeah, yeah, you’re right.” The karma was off, the divine entropy or whatever. And—not blaming, not blaming—but the steampunk closed the portal. I was trapped in all this. If you were me and I was you, the tables would be turned. I’d be judging you for throwing a guy off a roof and you’d be asking me for understanding. Not for mercy, or forgiveness. But understanding, anyone could expect. This guy was a real piece of garbage. A gaslight. No excuses, I get it. And sure. Beauty’s in the eye. I’m just saying.
Of course, everyone gasps when he goes over. Maggie screams. The shusher screams. The steampunk sticks his head out the third story window— “Heavens!” he yells, kinda faggy, kinda over the top, like “Heeey-vens!” I get it. A guy just flew past your window but do we have to do the drama? Everyone’s running to the fire escape to see the big gore. Everyone but me. I kinda hang back, obviously traumatized. I didn’t think I was ever going to become something that good or great. Good artist, writer, actor, you name it. But before this, I’m thinking, before this I had a chance.
Shit. I‘m shaking. The whole way down he’s hitting the fire escape—stairs, rails, flowerpots—WHAP! WHAP! WHAP! It’s like Plinko, only instead of a car at the end you were in for a human meatloaf. On the last rail is where it gets ugly—his knees hook and his back buckles like a hairclip behind him and he goes upside-down arms flailing, head-first into the street. He lands on his face—which immediately I’m thinking: Oh. This guy’s dead. Dead as a doorknob—but ends up sprawled like a snow angel on his back. The neighborhood goes numb as a hambone. There’s silence but underneath it’s a champagne cork about to pop. Someone groans, like they’re about to throw up. We’re all about to throw up. Then.
Like Lazarus, this motherfucker peels himself off the pavement and stands up. He’s got his ten beercan staff, completely intact, still in his hand. With all eyes watching, he raises it above his head for the whole neighborhood like he’s goddamn Gandalf. He howls something at the stars, triumphant, but I can’t hear what it is because everybody’s cheering and whistling. There were seven people at this party before but now it’s a hundred in the streets screaming like banshees. And this little jackass (god bless his soul) is doing backflips and blowing kisses like it was all a big act, which it was, which I pretend it is when I’m dodging the fuck out of there and fumbling for the portal door before the euphoria wears off and everyone realizes that some stranger just threw the wisest wizard off the fire escape four stories high.
One thing I was sure to do before I left was get a tip from the steampunk. He left fifty-five dollars for the weedman by the outdoor, which I didn’t consider stealing if only for the fact that I provided the neighborhood a pretty underappreciated service that night—a great show with a happy ending. The party was boring before me, and I’m sure it got boring after me. Not that I want any credit. I’d rather everyone forget I was ever there. I had a lot of glitter on. It took weeks to get out of my hair. I had this whole fantasy thought out, scaring myself for a month, where the cops come to my house with glitter samples from the crime scene, trying to forensic my scalp for clues. I spent a lot of time checking around corners and believing in God. A lot of time drinking by myself and trying to pray that night away. So if anyone ever asks (not that they would) set them straight. You didn’t see me. I wasn’t there.
Written by Pancho Morris with Artwork by Jeremy Daly