The Accidental House Party

I genuinely didn’t mean to throw a party. As with most things I do, it started with good intentions.

I used to be a member of a youth club. They used to hold national events. This one involved a disco. As I was talking to someone I dimly recognised, she mentioned that she didn’t have anywhere else to stay that night. “That’s OK”, I told her, forever wanting to be helpful, “you can stay at mine.”

“Great,” she said, “can Rachel* stay too?” “Sure!” I said. I was sure my parents would be fine with me bringing two friends** home to stay.

At some point after that, something went wrong. I can only guess that the girls got chatting to other people about where they were staying, mentioned that they were staying at mine, and it’d probably be fine if they stayed too. And that those people had similar conversations with other people. And so it spread, like a cold through a crowded tube train, until everyone was staying at mine and I had no idea.

I’d noticed that there were a lot of people from the youth group on the train home, but that didn’t worry me. Lots of my friends lived near me, so it made sense that we’d all be going home together , then we’d all go our separate ways at the station. But, as I started walking home, I realised that no-one was splitting off. That 30 or so teenagers appeared to be following me. And that I barely knew most of them.

There didn’t seem to be much I could do about it, so my brain switched into my default denial mode.

“It’ll probably be fine”, I thought.

It wasn’t fine.

Actually, it was OK for the first hour or so. But more people kept turning up. And they weren’t ready to settle down for a cosy night’s sleep. There were people everywhere, chatting turning to shrieking, making out in dark corners, going through the fridge.

“You’re surprisingly calm”, I remember one boy telling me. I wasn’t. I was numb.

I remember the rest of the night in a series of flashbacks. Panicking that my parents’ lovely house would decidedly less lovely by the end of it***. Repeatedly telling the rowdiest people to shush, to no end. Eventually rounding up the loudest of them and taking them out for a walk to try and calm them down. Returning to see a police car outside (someone hadn’t told their parents they were staying out). Making a large pot of pasta at 3am to feed my ravenous guests. Knowing that this was not going to end well for me. Realising that no-one else around me would care about that.

It was a long night.

People started drifting away in the morning. My parents finally ventured downstairs, but my dad didn’t speak to me for the best part of a week.

It feels like there should be a moral to this story, but there isn’t, not really. Life went on. Dad started talking to me again. I continued to make unwise decisions, I failed to stand up to people.

But, perhaps it’s not yet time to learn something from the story. Maybe next year, maybe in five years, maybe in ten years, one of my children will do something well-intentioned that spectacularly backfires. Something that keeps me awake all night. That gets the police banging on the door in the middle of the night. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll remember teenage me, panicked and out of control, and desperately wishing she hadn’t started any of this. And, hopefully, I’ll be kind.

*I can’t remember what the first girl’s name was, I certainly can’t remember what the second girl’s name was. Let’s call her Rachel. Everyone was called Rachel back then.

**I was always quick to assume everyone I met was my friend back then. I am somewhat older and just a touch more cynical now. But only a touch.

***Astoundingly, there didn’t seem to be any damage, just mess. My mother found some chewing gum stuck inside the curtains a few weeks later, but that was about it.

THE WINNING LINES: Tales from my dating days #17

I’d been seeing a guy for a little while; he lived a long way away, so all our dates had been in restaurants and bars. Things had been going well, and I’d agreed I’d stay the night at his.

When I arrived, he was apologetic; there was a problem at work and he’d been thinking about cancelling, but still wanted to see me. However, he’d need to check in with work occasionally.

He left me with a drink while he answered a few emails. I checked out his books and his CD collection while he was gone (doesn’t everyone?) When he came back, he explained he’d have to keep an eye on his phone during dinner.

Well, there’s a difference between keeping an eye on your phone and giving it your full attention. We didn’t talk much during the meal, and he seemed to get more and more agitated about work. I tried to chat about his taste in music and books, but a frostiness settled; he shut the conversation down and went back to looking at his phone and ignoring me.

It just didn’t make sense. He’d said he was happy to see me, but his actions said the opposite. It’s not fun hanging out with someone who blatantly doesn’t want you there, and I wanted to leave; but I was 70 miles from home, I’d had a few drinks and couldn’t drive, and public transport wasn’t an option.

I was stuck at his. There was nothing that could be done but brave it out until the morning.

He had the one bed, so we both had to spend the night sharing it, keeping as much distance from each other as possible; not talking, not touching. I didn’t sleep a wink.

The next morning, he woke and said he had to get onto a conference call with work immediately. I said I’d leave, but he told me to stay, saying that the call wouldn’t take long. I didn’t want to seem rude, so I stayed.

Two hours later, he was still on his call, and I was feeling thoroughly stupid. Several times, I stuck my head around the door to say I’d be going, but he insisted I stay, that he’d be off the call soon.

Eventually, my anger and discomfort finally overtook my desire to be polite. Enough. He didn’t want me there, whether he was prepared to admit it or not. And—more importantly, although it’d taken me long enough to get there—I really didn’t want to be there. Time to go.

Time to go. As I headed for the door, he muted his call to tell me: “It’s been a long time since I’ve had anyone over to mine. I’m not good with having other people in my personal space.”

I drove home, angry and upset. I presumed I’d never hear from him again, but he phoned me three days later. Maybe he thought he hadn’t insulted me enough yet; he told me he’d called to explain that he didn’t want to “take the relationship any further, because you’re obviously much keener on me than I am on you.” And in the next breath, he asked, “Do you want to be friends, though?”

I laughed—a sharp, hollow, laugh—and said no, thank you.