It’s the most important work cocktail party of the year. You are chatting with a small group of influential people when you accidentally pick up a decorative candle because you think it’s a drink. You don't realize the error until you've already put it up to your mouth to take a sip. Okay. Don't panic. Maybe no one noticed? Guess again. EVERYONE noticed. And they are all staring at you.
Your mind gropes feverishly for some kind of a solution. Then, like a single ray of saving light from grace, the answer dawns: You can cover your mistake by pretending it was a big joke that you intended all along!
“Yum yum I really can’t wait to enjoy my CANDLE DRINK!” You say. A few people laugh, which provides enough encouragement to spur you onward. You begin to approach small groups of people at the party with the candle still hoisted to your mouth, “This candle tastes Marvelous," you say in a funny voice, "would you like a sip?” Then a wink and a Groucho Marx move with the eyebrows.
Within an hour or so you come to be regarded at the party as the funny candle guy. Everyone likes you! The joke is a huge hit! Attractive single women inquire in surreptitious whispers to one another, "Hey who's the candle guy? What's HIS story?"
Success! You've turned what could have been the social blunder of the year into an extreme advantage! Your old man would be proud, God rest his soul.
The big boss comes over and claps you on the back heartily. "Tell me," he says, "where on earth did you discover that candle drink joke? The whole party's abuzz with the hilarity of it! Hahaha! To think! A candle as a drink? It's positively absurd. I love it!”
"Thank you, sir. Really it's just something I thought of spontaneously. But that’s how I like to view myself: as a spontaneous, outside of the box thinker. Or, in this case, a spontaneous, outside of the WAX thinker." You wink right as you say wax.
Your boss laughs uproariously. His laugh turns into a violent coughing spasm that lasts for several terrifying minutes. You make strange eye contact with the bloodshot eyes peeking over the fist he’s using to cover his barking mouth. When he finally recovers, he wipes his mouth with a handkerchief, looks at you solemnly and says, "Well it's that kind of fresh, outside of the box thinking that we need around here. You know what? Why don't you come and tell me about some of your other ideas in Monday morning's PARTNERS meeting.”
"Oh, yes sir! Yes sir I will."
"Good," he says. Well, I'll leave you to enjoy your drink. Or should I say...candle!"
He begins laughing again. In anticipatory fear of him lapsing into another fit of violent coughs, your entire face winces like you just sucked ten lemons. Luckily, you have the candle to hold in front of it. A moment or two later your boss wanders off. As he goes, a card slips from his pocket and floats to the ground. You pick it up and read:
1932 W. Wilshire Ave.
Ask for Carol after 8 p.m.
Hours later, the party is winding down. You slip into a coat closet. As the safe feeling of the darkness begins to take hold, your bone white hand releases the candle from its desperately clutching grasp. It hits the floor with a muffled thud and does a wonky roll for a foot before resting in silence.
Your mouth is parched from making candle drink jokes for the last four hours. You look down and notice your hand is shaking involuntarily. It looks like a deformed claw that belongs to some other creature entirely. Surely this is no human hand. You touch the strange claw hand to your face and feel the wetness there. How long have you been crying? You fall back into the hanging coats and sink slowly to the floor.
Your eyes close and you see yourself from long ago, a boy in the yard. A cold November afternoon and a game of kill the carrier with your brothers in the raw wind. Your mother comes to the porch and chides you for not wearing your coat, but she is smiling, wiping her hands on her apron. Oh, If only you could get back there…Back to the time before cocktail parties and partner meetings, and barking bosses. Back to that immemorial time of innocence, before the candle drink joke.
Maybe the thing that comes after death will just be the feeling of that ancient November day forever. Careless and free in the cold raw wind that pricked the blood in your face and colored your cheeks red with ruddy joy. There you will stay. In neither time nor place, but frozen in the feeling of that memory. Maybe after we die we just become the sweetest single note in the chorus of a beautiful song that never stops playing. Maybe…
“Honey I told you I think the fucking coat got put in the closet, OKAY?! Yes, this one! Oh I’m drunk?! How many wines did you have, darling??! Nine that I counted! When you and Barb get together it’s always like this. HANG ON! CAN YOU HANG ON SO I CAN CHECK IF THE COAT IS IN HERE! Jesus!”
“Oh shit, HONEY! There’s a guy in here. Honey, there’s, like, a crying guy in here.”