I threw a party in my apartment for a close friend. We all need reasons to throw parties and this was a good one. I had enough beer and liquor to inebriate an army. Girls danced, guys gambled, I even had matching cocktail napkins that said “Let’s Party!” Beforehand, I warned all the neighbors: three beside, two below, two across the hall and four more nearby. The unit below was a vacation rental so I didn’t go there. I thought it was vacant.
Guests outnumbered seats 4 to 1. The music was so loud we hollered to talk. Half the keg was empty. I was raising my glass upstairs to the guest of honor, Adam, when another friend, wide-eyed, interrupted.
“There’s a guy downstairs who wants to talk to the guy who lives here.” He pointed at me and shook his head. “He’s mad.”
In the kitchen, I could see in this stranger’s eyes that he did not come to party. He was a short stocky man, unshaven, and scowling.
I extended my hand. “I’m Victor, this is my place.”
He didn’t want to shake my hand so he did it quickly. “This has been going on all day!” He yelled and made a fist. “The loud music, stomping feet…non-stop!” His voice grew louder after every word. Veins popped in his forehead.
So someone was staying below me. He and his wife were visiting for the weekend.
I don’t handle conflict well, particularly when I’m drunk. I want everyone to be happy. But in this instant, I found newfound sobriety and diplomacy. I kindly escorted him outside.
“I’m really sorry,” I said emphatically. I was as surprised as he was. “I thought I warned everyone, I didn’t know anyone was downstairs.” I repeatedly apologized.
“It has to stop!” He insisted. He came to my mountain town for a peaceful getaway. He couldn’t even hear his TV. I was ruining his vacation. But behind my front door were 40 people, spilling beer and being loud. And yet, in all their obnoxiousness, there was no way I would to shut it down.
I lowered my head and fixed my eyes on him. “This party…” I pointed toward the door. “Is for my best friend Adam.”
I took a long, hard swallow.
“He joined the Army and ships off to basic training next week.” I was drunk, so I wanted to help this guy and make peace but knew I couldn’t. “I’m sorry again,” I continued, then clasped my hands as in prayer, and shook them toward his chin with every word that followed. “But…this…party…will…continue.”
A man earns honor in many ways. Helping an old lady across the street. Moving home to care for a dying father. Risking life to save another. I’ve always admired military personnel. I’ve never enlisted because I’m selfish, or a wimp, or have aversions to authority. But while I’ve never had that instinct, I can see why others do. Could be a family tradition, or how a man establishes his self worth. I like thinking that we all need to earn our space on this globe. But even more simply, perhaps we’re all just cogs among humanity, and finding our place is how we keep that mechanism operating properly. Some pursuits are more honorable than others, and some, warrant celebration that neighbors shouldn’t dare interrupt.
He never lightened his scowl. “I want to meet this guy,” he insisted. He probably thought I was lying.
No joke, Buddy. “Follow me,” I said, and showed him back inside. The party continued, but all eyes were on this stranger as we crossed the room.
I found Adam. “This guy wanted to meet you,” I told him, not mentioning our scuffle. “See!” I wanted to say, then get in his face. “He does exist!”
The stranger reached for Adam’s hand and held it for an awkwardly long moment.
“Thank you for your service,” he said, and bowed his head. Then he raised his voice again and addressed the crowd. “Y’all have a good night, party as long as you like.” He walked out the door and we never heard from him again.