I come home for Christmas, fresh from the airport. My mother throws a party, and everyone is seated, laughing. First emotion: dread. Not another one of these. Another night smiling and nodding. Another night feeling alone in the crowd; overly conspicuous.
Something internal warns me, and I duck and sweep. There's a man behind me, and I know him. Frustrated I start swinging as soon as he regains his feet. Jab, cross, another jab, right hook. "What the hell are you doing here?!", I growl at him. Dodging, then faking right and sending his feet flying out from under him again. He doesn't say anything (I like to think i'm keeping him too busy to be loquacious), but I hear someone at a table on the far side of the driveway burst out laughing. I know him too. "Like he can talk Ace!", he says. "Ugh, you better both start talking you ass!". More laughter.
We fight our way across the stone tile, going for broke. Play fighting isn't in me. Apparently it isn't in him either. I catch glimpses of faces comically frozen in shock or horror or surprise; mostly some combination of the three. There is no time to explain, and I wouldn't know how, regardless. So we fight. The sweat is dripping, the moves are becoming more desperate, but i'm getting angry. Raging, actually. Where have they been, I think? For years and years, where have they been?! It starts to feel like Candid Camera. Or This is Your Life!. Or hell, America's Funniest Home Videos. Only as usual the joke is on me. As I said before, play fighting isn't in me. I start digging into my bag of tricks. It's a bit of an "undetectable extension charm". Only.. not nearly as charming. And minus the Dittany. I stop street fighting, and start Street Fighter-ing. I pull out a series of moves I've had down in my mind for years, but have never tried. They land. He is spending a lot of time sprawled out on the floor. I land, and break for air, just for a second.
"Nush! nush! nush! nush!", sounds out from the top of the stairs behind me. I turn my head and I feel some of the red start bleeding and feathering away from my eyes. "Hey Deaks!... who ya running from?", I ask the baby rapidly motoring out the front door. She turns to look back with a grin, and at first all I see is a hulking shadow fall from inside the door. A deep voice (one my mother would call a "true bass") calmly calls out "Hey Ace". The body attached to said bass saunters out the front door; tall, sexy without being 'handsome' or 'cute', and built like a brick shithouse.
"Yum" is about all I manage, sending my sprawling friend back to the ground with a flip and a now seriously distracted kick. The baby continues to giggle and gurgle and wait for me to finish. She's seen this sort of thing before. "Not you too", I grumble at the man now standing with the baby on her belly at his feet. "We couldn't help it! yells someone fairly high-pitched from inside the house. Unfortunately I know her too. "Oh good grief". When the fighting breaks next, I run up the stairs and jump with both feet into the man's arms and spend a couple of minutes kissing the living daylights out of him (or perhaps it's the other way around. It's probably definitely the other way around). "Need a hand?" he asks when we come up for air. "Of course not", I say, disengaging myself and turning back to the idiot getting to his feet. Again. I turn my head back slightly, and say quietly, "but i'd like one".
To the right of me is a table of men. For some reason at parties here genders seem to occupy different spaces whenever possible even when everyone is attending the same thing. My father, uncles, random ones I don't know (as is the case during such things). A man sits at the table, and as you've probably guessed, I know him too. I don't look at him, but I say, again quietly, "Call it. If you don't I will, and you will not like how I do". More confused stares. The man finally answers "Ok. fine. No breaking anything, speed is a plus, bonus points if the ceiling comes into play". The stares shift back to surprise; heads bobbing and weaving between the man and myself.
What happens next is something I absolutely stole from M Bison. I flip back, get a boost from the man with the baby, push off the ceiling, and execute a perfect 520 roundhouse. He's not getting back up for some time. "Nice. You're done." comes from the men's table. "Nush! nush! nush! nush!" sounds from behind me again, and I turn and pick up the little loudmouth, and lean on the man. Mine.
Of course there are explanations to be told and heard and rejected and belaboured and eventually grudgingly accepted. More and more people I know come out of the woodwork. It is such a change from...everything and every year that has gone before. There is a party at my house, at which I know people. At which there are people who know me. Who don't know the version of me that my brother thinks he knows, or his friends have been told, or my parents and their friends assume they know. People who see beyond the wreckage left behind by medication and disorder and side effects. Who do more than smile and nod back. Or who do anything at all.
As I sit there, as I have for years: my hair so thin I bleach it for volume; my red raw skin poorly covered in layers of powder; the tags in my clothing carefully cut away so even I no longer have to face the size I've become... it's nice to dream. Sometimes the smiles and nods hide terrible rage, crushing sadness, and a loneliness I have no adjectives for.
That's when the lies we tell protect not just us, but all those people we don't know.